Denton, Texas (AP) — The U.S. Secret Service confiscated bogus $1 million bills printed as religious tracts from an evangelical ministry, saying the handbills too closely mimic real money.
The ministry’s head said Monday he will continue to distribute them until the government orders him to stop.
Three agents visited the headquarters of the Great News Network on Friday and took 8,300 handouts, after someone brought one of the false $1 million bills to a bank on the East Coast, authorities said. Agents traced the bill to Denton.
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But ministry founder Darrel Rundus said he doesn’t understand how he can be accused of counterfeiting a bill that does not exist. The highest denomination of U.S. currency is the $100,000 bill.
“We’re a group that equips Christians with materials on how to share their faith,” Rundus said. “One way we do it is gospel tracts. That’s what these are, gospel tracts. You’d think the Secret Service would have more to do than raid a Christian ministry.”
On the network’s Web site, he suggests that the government is targeting the group because they were spreading a religious message.
Dallas Secret Service agents will meet this week with the U.S. attorney in Denton to determine what steps to take with the ministry, said Bill Flowers, assistant agent in charge with the Secret Service in Dallas.
Federal law says bill facsimiles for novelty or advertising purposes must be at least 50 percent larger or 25 percent smaller than actual size and cannot contain anything resembling government seals, Flowers said.
Ray Comfort’s Living Waters Publications, a California ministry, printed and sold the handbills to the Denton ministry. They are the same size and colors as the new $20 bill and bear Grover Cleveland’s portrait along with fake federal seals.
The U.S. Treasury seal reads, “Thou shalt not steal.” Other gospel messages are written in the border on the back of the bill.
Mark Lowery, special agent in charge of the Secret Service in Dallas, said the Los Angeles office and U.S. attorney there will decide how to proceed with Living Waters.