Did you know that Ohio is one of ten states that does not have explicit statutes addressing counterfeiting? The U.S. Secret Service, the federal law enforcement agency that investigates federal counterfeiting crimes, recently brought this fact to my attention. Counterfeiting—or the unauthorized reproduction of monetary instruments with the intention of misleading the recipient—is an awful crime that affects so many everyday people as they carry out monetary transactions.

That’s why I will soon be introducing legislation that will create a new, comprehensive criminal law defining counterfeiting in the Ohio Revised Code. Further, the offense will be included under the definition of corrupt activity, and additional penalties will apply for engaging in, attempting to engage in, conspiring to engage in, or soliciting, coercing, or intimidating another person to engage in counterfeiting.

This new law will set the standard nationally for violations of manufacturing U.S. currency and credit or debit cards, creating a sliding scale between fourth and first degree felonies depending on the severity of the monetary loss to the victim. The bill is clear and concise, which will help law enforcement officers in their implementation of the law and reduce irregularities in charges that currently occur across the state.

The most important reason this bill is so necessary is because of the close ties between counterfeiting and illegal drug activity. The U.S. Secret Service has seen a significant increase in these kinds of crimes directly related to narcotic cases in Ohio. In fact, more than 85 percent of counterfeiting investigations in southwestern Ohio are linked to illicit drug activity. Our state is already struggling to combat a detrimental opioid epidemic, which has consequently brought an increase of counterfeiting with it.

It’s clear to me that this is an issue of the utmost importance, one that requires a multifaceted approach. First, we must create a new criminal law defining counterfeiting and making it easier to arrest and charge those who take advantage of unsuspecting Ohioans in this way. We must also continue the battle against drug abuse and addiction to prevent illegal currency and credit cards from further infiltrating our state. As a testament to its necessity, this legislation has received the endorsement of all major law enforcement agencies and has no opposition. As this bill is introduced and receives hearings in committee, I look forward to gaining feedback from interested parties and learning more about the issue.

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