Peru, one of Latin America’s fast-growing economies and a hub of the global cocaine trade, has emerged as a producer of counterfeit US dollars being used both abroad and at home.
Counterfeiting has grown large and fast enough that US authorities call Peru one of Latin America’s worst offenders when it comes to cranking out fake US currency.
In Lima, many people traditionally change their currency, soles, to dollars on the street to get a slightly better rate than in banks, without the wait.
And that arrangement has opened a big door to counterfeiters.
“People moving the counterfeit greenbacks set up shop around the city. And they always have getaway cars close by when they make a big transaction or when we identify them,” said Antolin Vilca, a currency trader who has worked for two decades on the street in Lima’s financial district.
Counterfeiters show up as street dollar traders finish up their days, hoping to swap fake larger US notes for lots of real smaller-denomination dollars.