Expanding on his Rolling Stone article, first-time author Kersten tenders a lawbreaker’s script about fake money and an alternative lifestyle, told largely from the viewpoint of the fascinating perp.
Engaging and accomplished counterfeiter Art Williams had a truly rotten childhood, according to the memories he shared with the author. After considerable bad behavior, Dad skipped out, leaving the kids with certifiably crazy Mom. Gangs dictated life and death on the gritty streets of Chicago’s worst neighborhood. Yet there Williams was mentored by benevolent Pete “DaVinci,” a clever printer of bank notes. One day, his teacher was gone, and the young student, with native pluck and instinctive smarts, manfully clawed his way to the top of the counterfeiting heap. Ironically, he only got into trouble with the law after a breakup with a girlfriend led him to sell off his printing equipment, move to Texas and take up robbery. Nabbed in a jewelry heist, he did six years in the Texas penal system and emerged in 1999 swearing he’d stick to bad bills. But the familiar old currency was being supplanted by the “New Note,” whose enhanced paper, watermarks, security strips and microprinting were nearly impossible to replicate. Not for the inventive and proficient Williams, who produced a creditable bogus hundred using glues, sprays, ink, paper, press, camera, scanner and laptop. He wholesaled his product at 30 cents on the dollar, but it was more exciting to pass it on road trips with family and friends. It’s estimated that Williams stimulated his own economy with some $10 million in counterfeit before he was nabbed. His downfall resulted from family problems, especially misplaced filial consideration. Where is our hero now? Just where you would expect, considering that he’s a recidivist.
An absorbed reporter grippingly relays the story of a rare trade and the troubled family relations of a talented grifter.