Let's imagine that I'm a person living in the US who wants to counterfeit foreign currency and then convert it into US dollars. Let's say it's the currency of a country that the US doesn't really have formal relations with (no extradition treaty, etc.); let's say this country is South Sudan.

Can I be sent to jail either in the US or in South Sudan? If you would be sent to jail in South Sudan, is there another country's currency that would make this viable? Would I still be thrown in jail if I didn't convert the money into dollars?

  • 1
    Why do you believe that creating forgeries of a foreign currency and then exchanging that for US currency wouldn't be a criminal offense? You are defrauding the US government because the US would not be able to exchange that with the foreign country. You would almost certainly be prosecuted and jailed under US law.
    – Ron Beyer
    May 1, 2018 at 0:39
  • @RonBeyer Whether something should be a criminal offense and whether it is a criminal offense are two different things. I got curious so I asked. If we all guessed at what was illegal and what wasn't and were always right, there would be no point for law stackexchange to exist.
    – Byte11
    May 1, 2018 at 11:18

1 Answer 1


It's illegal under US law. 18 U.S. Code § 478 says:

Whoever, within the United States, with intent to defraud, falsely makes, alters, forges, or counterfeits any bond, certificate, obligation, or other security of any foreign government, purporting to be or in imitation of any such security issued under the authority of such foreign government, or any treasury note, bill, or promise to pay, lawfully issued by such foreign government and intended to circulate as money, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

There are several similar laws for similar crimes:

§ 479 - Uttering counterfeit foreign obligations or securities
§ 480 - Possessing counterfeit foreign obligations or securities
§ 481 - Plates, stones, or analog, digital, or electronic images for counterfeiting foreign obligations or securities
§ 482 - Foreign bank notes
§ 483 - Uttering counterfeit foreign bank notes
§ 488 - Making or possessing counterfeit dies for foreign coins
§ 502 - Postage and revenue stamps of foreign governments

According to version of the South Sudan penal code I was able to find, counterfeiting is illegal. But if I understand section 7 correctly (which I might not), most counterfeiting is not prosecutable under South Sudan law if it is not done in South Sudan. Having a counterfeit revenue stamp, however, would be, as would fraudulently altering a coin. Given that there's not an extradition treaty and that it's already illegal under US law, this probably doesn't matter much, though

  • You might want to point out that its also illegal under South Sudanese law.
    – Dale M
    Apr 30, 2018 at 4:47
  • Sure, but it's not clear that, without an extradition treaty, that would matter much.
    – D M
    Apr 30, 2018 at 5:54
  • You're assuming the OP will never travel to anywhere that SS has an extradition treaty with and that the US and SS will never sign one.
    – Dale M
    Apr 30, 2018 at 6:43
  • Fair enough. I added what I could find.
    – D M
    Apr 30, 2018 at 6:48
  • Very interesting fact. Other countries might have different laws. And I wouldn't be surprised if country X states that counterfeiting X's currency is a crime, no matter where it happens.
    – gnasher729
    May 1, 2018 at 20:22

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