Counterfeit bills account for only a fraction of a per cent of the Canadian currency in circulation at any given time. The Bank of Canada estimates that in 2006 phony cash-everything from crude photocopies to highly sophisticated forgeries-was worth just $6.7 million. Wesley Weber's work fell into the latter category. Back in 2000, Weber-a self-professed nerd from a small town near Windsor, Ontario, who started out forging car-insurance slips in high school-began producing $100 bills that even the Bank admits were excellent. Over the next year and a half, Weber and his accomplices flooded the Windsor-Toronto corridor with millions in fake currency, leading many businesses to simply stop accepting C-notes. (The Bank of Canada has since introduced a new series of notes with increased security.) He served 44 months in total for his crimes (including two parole violations). Now, at 32, Weber's a free man, and he's been born again-as a day trader.
It was an ego thing. I was always looking for the recipe that would make me cool among my peers. I wanted the lifestyle-the girls, the booze, the money. Pretty soon it occurred to me: What if you could print money? It's just an engineered photo on a piece of paper-it's not dropped from the heavens. As a kid, the computer was my best buddy, and I'd tried making some 10s and 20s. But I thought it'd be too difficult to do on a large scale.
One night, I threw a $100 bill into a scanner and printed it out to see where the deficiencies lay. It took me five or six months to get a reasonable facsimile. But the paper wasn't right-banknotes don't glow under UV light. I went to Toronto and told this paper shop that I ran a bar and needed paper that didn't glow under fluorescent lights. They brought out a brochure that explained all the terminology of the pulp and paper industry. And they said, "You need archival-quality paper."
To simulate the planchettes-those fluorescent polymer dots that were embedded in real banknotes-I bought $5 worth of fluorescent paint at Loomis & Toles. Then I started looking into the optical security device-the colour-changing square of foil on the Birds of Canada series of notes. Back then, I didn't have the money to manufacture my own foil, but I found an art supplier in New York that sold the paint in acrylic form, so I made a stencil. I used a hot-stamping machine to put on the "100." (Eventually I found a place called API Foils in New Jersey that could make the foil for us-I told them I ran a graphics company.) To print the bills, we used $700 Hewlett-Packard printers. We demoed a $50,000 copy machine, but it couldn't beat the colour ink-jets. They still can't.
After about three months, my friends convinced me the bills were perfect. They literally got stuck in the door trying to be the first to pass them. They bought a carton of cigarettes at a convenience store on Wyandotte Street in Windsor and came back with the change. Then the circus began-they bought stuff at Canadian Tire, Home Depot and Business Depot, then returned it. To launder the money, one buddy started wiring cash to himself at Money Mart. I didn't pass a bill for five months.
By September, 2000, I started seeing the bills taped to a lot of merchants' cash registers. A friend of mine at a bank got a letter from the RCMP describing the deficiencies in our notes-she gave me the letter and I fixed everything, but I was paranoid. So we started selling it to a Middle Eastern fellow in Windsor for 24 cents on the dollar; he funnelled it to other groups (by the end, he'd gotten us down to 12 cents). One time he invited me to his house and said, "We have a friend in the Iraqi embassy, and we want you to consider moving to one of Saddam's palaces. You could undermine the West by printing counterfeit. You'd be treated like a hero." He was dead serious. Another time, I taped half a million dollars to a guy who was flying to Iraq.
When we first started, it took 11 guys 13 hours to make $100,000. By the time we got arrested 14 months later, at an A-frame cottage we'd rented in Lakeshore, near Windsor, we had four guys making 100 grand in 31/2 hours.
My lifestyle was perverted. I had a safe from Canadian Tire with $300,000 in it-real money. I had money on top of the freezer, money in the freezer. One time a friend opened my fridge to get a Fudgsicle and $100,000 fell onto the floor. I owned a '98 Ferrari Spider, SVT Cobra Mustang convertible, a Tahoe, a Jeep Grand Cherokee and a BMW 325-and my condo only had two parking spots. I had big-screen TVs, leather couches, snowmobiles. I'd wake up on a Monday afternoon and take my Sea-Doo jet boat out on the Detroit River and jump waves behind thousand-foot freighters. I had no purpose. But when you're making $8,000 to $12,000 a day in clean money, it has a way of persuading you to keep going.
On July 11, 2001, we were sitting at the dining room table. There was no sound, just the monotonous drone of the printer. Then there was a BOOM. The big oak patio doors came off their hinges, and these cops came in with guns and yelled at us to get on the ground. I was resting my head on my co-accused's ass, and when I tried to move, somebody stomped on me and chipped my front teeth. The printers were still going-I could hear the carriages going gu-zz, gu-zz, gu-zz. The wind was coming in off the lake, and $100 bills were flying around like leaves.
The RCMP had been watching us for months-they had a command centre set up next door. They'd broken into our place and hooked up audio and video surveillance equipment. Anyone with half a brain would have figured it out, but I was cocky. I had all sorts of ideas of how to outsmart the RCMP. But you can't ever outsmart those guys.
I pleaded guilty and got five years and seven months in jail, though I only served 13 months because it was a white-collar crime. For the first five months, I was at Millhaven, a maximum-security institution west of Kingston. I saw guys get stabbed there. I learned three things in jail: Don't whistle-it shows disrespect. Don't ask what anyone's in for. And don't call anyone a goof.
But I spent most of my sentence at Bath, a medium-security jail next door. It was like a campground. I lived in a house with a barbecue. I played tennis. I had a garden-I grew corn and watermelons.
That's where I met a gentleman who introduced me to the stock market. I didn't even know what an equity or a bond was. But I learned by watching CNBC. Maria Bartiromo and Joe Kernen-they were like family. I started waking up at 6 a.m. and keeping track of all my hypothetical trades on a piece of foolscap. I must have filled 500 sheets of paper before I got into trading real money. I built up a fictitious account of $100,000 in a few months. That's when I decided to sell my Cobra and do it for real. I sent $16,000 to a lawyer in Kingston; she hired a 19-year-old girl to sit on the phone all day and trade stocks for me. I paid her $400 a week. I'd wake up at 7 a.m. and put together a list of stocks I was interested in. She'd read the quotes to me in real time, and I'd plot it on graph paper. Then I'd say, "Buy 1,000 shares." We'd make $300 or $400-and I was in jail!
I got out on July 6, 2006, after my second parole violation. I had been inside for 19 months, so I decided to treat myself, staying in the penthouse of the Mariner Terrace, with a hot tub on the balcony overlooking SkyDome. It cost me $5,500 a month. I just wanted to do it for a couple of months, to breathe some life back into me. But it turned into six months. I live in Richmond Hill now, and I'm working at a Rogers store, selling phones. I'm still trading-I have about $1.4 million in my account, mainly from investors. If I can't earn $4,500 a week for myself, then I'm a clown. The only way a stock moves is from greed or fear. I've lived both, so I don't have those reactions-it's called functionally psychotic.
The cops say, "You're a mastermind." I say I'm a master moron. My lowest point was hearing my parents crying on the phone. I was playing tennis in jail, and my mother was worrying that I was getting stabbed. You know that show My Name Is Earl? It's my favourite. Karma is a big thing in my life-everything I ever dished out has come back to me twofold.
Rap Sheet: Wesley Weber
- Printed his first fake bill when he was 13
- Got arrested for the first time at 18, for stealing computer equipment from a high school in Windsor
- Started forging cheques for friends in his late teens
- Did years of bioscience and two years of mechanical engineering at the University of Windsor
- Was first convicted of forgery in 1997 and spent three months in jail
- In April, 1999, was busted for running a grow op and sentenced to 240 hours of community service and 18 months of house arrest
- July 11, 2001 was arrested for counterfeiting and sentenced to 13 months in prison