The Art of Making Money: The Story of a Master Counterfeiter
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Read Jason Kersten's posts on the Penguin Blog.
The true story of a brilliant counterfeiter who "made" millions, outwitted the Secret Service, and was finally undone when he went in search of the one thing his forged money couldn't buy him: family.
Art Williams spent his boyhood in a comfortable middle-class existence in 1970s Chicago, but his idyll was shattered when, in short order, his father abandoned the family, his bipolar mother lost her wits, and Williams found himself living in one of Chicago's worst housing projects. He took to crime almost immediately, starting with petty theft before graduating to robbing drug dealers. Eventually a man nicknamed "DaVinci" taught him the centuries-old art of counterfeiting. After a stint in jail, Williams emerged to discover that the Treasury Department had issued the most secure hundred-dollar bill ever created: the 1996 New Note. Williams spent months trying to defeat various security features before arriving at a bill so perfect that even law enforcement had difficulty distinguishing it from the real thing. Williams went on to print millions in counterfeit bills, selling them to criminal organizations and using them to fund cross-country spending sprees. Still unsatisfied, he went off in search of his long-lost father, setting in motion a chain of betrayals that would be his undoing.
In The Art of Making Money, journalist Jason Kersten details how Williams painstakingly defeated the anti-forging features of the New Note, how Williams and his partner-in-crime wife converted fake bills into legitimate tender at shopping malls all over America, and how they stayed one step ahead of the Secret Service until trusting the wrong person brought them all down. A compulsively readable story of how having it all is never enough, The Art of Making Money is a stirring portrait of the rise and inevitable fall of a modern-day criminal mastermind.
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Clayton to leave his home, and gave him a South Side beating. By the time they were done, he not only promised to leave them alone, but left town altogether. CRIME SO OFTEN POISONS RELATIONSHIPS that it’s easy to forget its power to feed them. Although the Clayton robbery was a fiasco, for Art the episode’s most surprising aspect wasn’t getting caught: It was the women. “They were frightened, but they stood strong,” he says. “And in spite of everything, they had a taste for it. I blame
she wasn’t producing results, she finally snapped. “What else do you want me try?” she said as she stood in the kitchen with the pen in her hand. “Maybe these paper towels will work.” She marked the towels viciously. “Nope, black. How about toilet paper? Or wait, here’s a cereal box.” She began running around the room, angrily marking everything she saw. “Aha, here’s a phone book. The same phone book I’ve been using to call fucking paper companies. Haven’t tried this,” she said acidly, and
access the rest of the mall via their interior entrances. “We would never spend in that store, ever,” he notes, “that was our getaway plan. And usually it would be through the department store door, to the car, then an exit to the highway in one fucking sweet move.” Once inside the mall, Natalie shopped while Art waited outside the stores and did his best to look like just another bored, dutiful husband beleaguered by an acquisitive wife. He’d keep an eye out for security guards and watch
terrified. He begged his son to let him go so he could talk. Art eased up, but his fists remained clenched. “I looked for you,” Senior reiterated. “I should have looked harder.” He told his son that he knew he was a failure, that nothing could excuse the abandonment. Art had every right in the world to be angry, and if whaling on him would make him feel better, then he was willing to take it. That calmed Art down a little bit. But he told his dad that the story about looking for his children was
reliability were meaningless. Art got back in the car, turned it around, and finally told him what he’d come to say. “We’re done,” he told Senior. “You were a shit when you left us and you’re a shit now. I’ll probably always love you, but I can’t do this with you. We’re leaving.” Senior begged him to stay. When he failed to convince Art that he was overreacting, Senior told him that they didn’t have to counterfeit at all. He still meant what he’d said about Art and Natalie building a house on