Forgery of U.S. Treasury Checks--Federal Misdemeanor Law Needed

GGD-84-6: Published: Nov 17, 1983. Publicly Released: Nov 17, 1983.

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GAO conducted a review to determine whether a Federal misdemeanor forgery statute is needed for prosecuting forgery of U.S. Treasury checks and assessed the extent of Secret Service referrals of Treasury check forgery cases to local authorities for prosecution.

The Secret Service has primary responsibility for investigating cases involving forgery of U.S. Treasury checks. The check forgery workload is heavy and such cases account for about half of Secret Service expenses for investigative activities, excluding protection. In 1982, the Secret Service closed about 82,000 check forgery cases involving checks with a total value of about $26.5 million. Most cases were either closed administratively or declined for prosecution by U.S. attorneys. Forging a U.S. Treasury check is punishable as a felony, although not all such cases are prosecuted as felonies. Although cases involving multiple offenders are increasing, many forgeries of U.S. Treasury checks are perpetrated by first-time offenders who obtained and negotiated a single check by nonviolent means. While investigators and prosecutors often consider check forgery to be a low-level crime, some law enforcement officials believe that prosecution of first-time offenders is often necessary to prevent growth in the trafficking of U.S. Treasury checks. The Department of the Treasury objects to classifying forgery of U.S. Treasury checks as a minor criminal offense, believing that the incidence of violations involving repeat offenders or organized crime is increasing.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: Congress should enact legislation which will provide that forgery of a U.S. Treasury check under certain circumstances, such as a first-time offender forging a check of nominal value, be subject to prosecution as a misdemeanor. Congress presently has before it S. 829, the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1983, a section of which would create misdemeanor penalties for U.S. Treasury check forgery offenses. Should this comprehensive bill fail to be enacted, GAO recommends that the current statute (18 U.S.C. 495) be amended to create misdemeanor penalties for check forgeries.


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