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U.S. Marshals Service

History -  Catching Counterfeiters: 

With these meager resources, United States Marshals and their Deputies combated the legions of counterfeiters. They relied on informants and their own skills as detectives, sometimes working undercover, to conduct the investigations. The work of Marshal Daniel A. Robertson and his Deputies in Ohio exemplified how the Marshals pursued the illusive conmen. Ohio was a breeding ground for counterfeiters. Its rural areas provided perfect hideouts for the printers: its proximity to the major cities offered convenient markets for the passers.

Marshal Robertson, by the winter of 1847, had collected the names of "upwards of 50 counterfeiters in Ohio.  Many of them are men of property. and apparent respectability. " According to his information, most of the printers lived in "out of the way places: seldom in towns and cities." They never passed the bogus money themselves, but used passers who distributed it in areas far from where it was originally made. "In brief," the Marshal reported to the Solicitor of the Treasury, "they practice their offenses in the most adroit manner. It is only by great skill, stratagem, and resolution that this class of men can be detected and brought to justice."

Robertson understood the difficulties confronting the lawmen. The laws against counterfeiting. in his view, were defective. They provided no punishment for selling counterfeit as counterfeit, nor did they prohibit the passers from having the bogus money in their possession, even if they clearly intended to pass it. The printers, too, were free to possess counterfeiting machinery and tools and to make the presses, dies, and other instruments of their trade. The law only punished those who actually made counterfeit or put the money in circulation. But of more immediate concern to the Marshal was the reticence of the Treasury Department to cover the expenses of the investigations. "The law does not provide for reimbursing the officer for such expense." he pointed out. "This is the reason the counterfeiters of coin have been hitherto enabled, in a great measure, to defy the laws." Even after both Robertson and the U.S. Attorney in Ohio, G.W. Bartley. reported an extensive network of counterfeiters in Ohio, the Treasury Department hesitated to appoint a special agent to pursue the investigations.  Finally, Robertson volunteered to undertake the work if the Department pad his expenses. which he estimated at $5 a day.

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