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U.S. Customs And Border Protection Seizes More Than $1.6M In Fake Money Headed To Joliet From Ukraine

CHICAGO (CBS) -- More than $1.6 million in fake money has been intercepted over the last month from shipments originating in Ukraine and destined for, of all places, Joliet.

As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, there were two separate shipments addressed to the same Joliet business – and now, the investigation is in the hands of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Secret Service.

Earlier this fall, we showed you the flood of counterfeits coming through Chicago's International Mail Facility during the pandemic.

They're still coming now. On Monday night, officers came across a package that was coming from Ukraine and heading to a business in Joliet.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers checked it out and found prop money - $1,395,700 in fake $100 bills, to be exact.

They were considered "prop bills," like ones used in film and on stage. But as Assistant Area Port Director Hans Leiterman explained, "It says 'prop bills,' but again, you wash it in the water, dry it, it will look like a normal $100 bill."

On Tuesday, Area Port Director Shane Campbell told said it is unclear if the intended recipients in Joliet were planning to circulate the money.

"I can't even say this is being shipped for nefarious reasons," Campbell said.

He said it could be people who are generally interested prop money, or people who are trying to pass off prop money as the real thing. But it is illegal either way.

And the seizure Monday night came just three weeks after a nearly identical bust. On Oct. 23, another parcel was intercepted coming from Ukraine, headed to the same business in Joliet - and filled with prop money totaling nearly $300,000.

Campbell said officers in Chicago have made 250 counterfeit currency seizures like these in the past nine months - valued at $11 million dollars. That is nearly one seizure per day, and Ukraine is on their list of top offenders.

"That could really cause disruptions to the security of the U.S. dollar, both here in the states and worldwide, with counterfeits," Campbell said.

CBP is asking vendors to double-check their bills for anything that looks off.

We did reach out to Joliet police asking about the seizures and if they've found other fake money in circulation. As of late Tuesday, there had been no response.

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