[Guest post by DRJ]
Here’s an unusual search and seizure case:
“The million-dollar question: Will you go to heaven?” is printed on the back of bills used as gospel tracts by a Dallas-area evangelical group.
The counterfeit money was seized by Secret Service Agents back in 2006 when a North Carolina man tried to deposit the $1 million bill in his bank account.
Last week, a Texas federal district court ruled that the fake money, printed by the Great News Network, is fake enough that it doesn’t pose a risk of fraud, so it’s not illegal.
Note: The U.S. doesn’t make a $1 million bill, or any bill over $1,000 for that matter. The slip–which bears the face of President Grover Cleveland–also says: “This is Not Legal Tender” and “Department of Eternal Affairs.”
The court also ruled that the Secret Service violated the Fourth Amendment when it took more than 8,000 of the bills from the organization’s offices without warrant, an unconstitutional search and seizure.”
The decision overturned a 2006 preliminary injunction ruling that treated the $1M bills as counterfeit money, not religious tracts, even though it appears only one person out of millions thought it was real:
“U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis refused to grant a request by Darrel Rundus of the Great News Network to order federal agents to return thousands of tracts – printed as million-dollar bills – seized June 2 from the ministry’s Denton office.
According to court documents, Secret Service agents became involved in the case after a bank customer in North Carolina recently tried to deposit one of the tracts. That led agents to the Denton ministry, where they grabbed up more than 8,000 tracts.
The government argued in court filings that the million-dollar bills are the same size as federal reserve notes, use a portrait of President Grover Cleveland and have the distinctive peach and green coloring of new currency denominations. The back of the bill also looks like the $20 bill, except that the borders contain type-written warnings against sins such as lustful glances at women. Repentance is also urged.
Brian Fahling, a Mississippi attorney who filed the injunction request on behalf of Great News Network, said the ministry has passed out millions of the tracts to spread a Gospel message, not to circulate counterfeit currency.
“One person out of 6 million was confused by this?” Mr. Fahling said about the bank incident in North Carolina. “It’s just absurd to think anybody would view this tract as real money.”
No word on the fate of the eternal optimist in North Carolina who tried to deposit one.