Sunday, September 4, 2016

Not-so-Funny Money: A Short Tale of Bitter Litter in Mississippi

by Nomad

According to a local Mississippi paper, a day of hard labor pea-picking for eight Pontotoc County inmates was interrupted with another request. They were called to pick up loose $100 bills scattered about Highway 9 North.

A Dash for Highway Dough

It must have seemed like a delightful diversion, a dream come true. However, all was not what it seemed.
The abandoned cash was just a film prop, and each bill- though convincing from a distance- was emblazoned with words "For Motion Picture Use Only."

Where exactly the fake cash originally came from was unclear. Pontotoc County Sheriff Leo Mask speculated that somebody must have been hauling theater equipment. A movie reel was also found along the road.
An investigation is ongoing and the sheriff department will keep the fake loot until somebody comes forward to claim it.

Of course, funny money is funny money, no matter what its intended use. So, except for how it is used, what's the difference between a prop and a counterfeit? Well, there's a law regarding fake currency production that distinguishes props from outright counterfeiting.
According to the Counterfeit Detection Act of 1992, a reproduced bill must be: a.) either less than 75% or more than 150% the size of a real bill, b.) one-sided, and c.) made with only one color (so as to discourage the reproduction of identifying factors).

That's the reason the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is, held to the same standards of counterfeit law that the general public is, set forth by the U.S. Secret Service. 

At one time in the early history of film-making, Mexican currency- rendered worthless following the revolution- was used. That was in the days when films looked a lot more like live theater and before the age of the extreme close-up or technicolor.
Gradually, over time, audiences became harder to fool and demanded more credible props. And that's how the industry of producing fake money was born.
Here's a more in-depth look at that aspect.

From Film-Making to Crime Committing

When it comes to props, if it can fool audiences in a cinema, it might be able to fool a lot of less-observant people outside the multiplex too.   
Actually, there have been incidents in which film production props have been used to fool the unsuspecting.
Last week in Atlanta, Georgia, two men used Motion Picture Association of America funds to purchase two used cars using more than $3,000 worth of funny money. Similar incidents have happened in Alabama, Tennessee and Texas in 2016 alone.
Other cases have also recently been reported. A couple in used movie money to make a $1,000 purchase at a Wal-mart in Buford, Georgia. (A cashier may have been involved in the scam.)  
One local source points out:
There were earlier reports in Athens that people were using the fake money to attempt to buy marijuana and to purchase food at a McDonald’s drive-thru.
It might also surprise you to learn that convincing "Hollywood" money can be purchased online, through, for example, Ebay or direct through a prop manufacturer. (Apparently, Amazon has discontinued the sale of prop money.) 
The requirements found in the Counterfeit Detection Act of 1992 don't seem to have discouraged a few scammers from attempting to use the fakes illegally. 

For eight disappointed inmates, the litter pick-up must have turned out to be a bitter pill to swallow.