U.S. Attorney Seeks $7 Million In Forfeiture Trial Of Privately Printed “Liberty Dollars”

Apr 05, 2011   

On April 4th, federal prosecutors will resume the forfeiture trial of approximately $7 million in precious metals used to create “Liberty Dollar” coins, a privately minted and distributed currency which prosecutors believed was designed to compete with US currency in violation of federal law. The forfeiture trial comes after the March 18, 2011 conviction of the Liberty Dollars creator, Bernard von NotHaus, on multiple charges including making coins resembling US currency, issuing and passing Liberty Dollars coins intended for use as “current money,” and conspiracy. A copy of Federal Bureau of Investigations press release announcing the conviction can be read on their website here.

The authority of the federal government to regulate and coin money traces its roots directly to the U.S. Constitution. Article I, section8, clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to coin money. The power of Congress to regulate and coin money also necessarily includes the power to place restrictions on circulation of money printed by non-federal entities. However, no law currently exists that prevents a local community from printing and circulating it own currency.

Although locally printed and circulated alternative or “local currencies” do exist, they are subject to several federal laws. For example, 18 U.S.C. § 485 prohibits possession and sale of local currencies in “resemblance or similitude of any coin of a denomination higher than 5 cents.” This not only prevents local currencies from printing currency with the marks of U.S. minted coins and dollars, such as “In God We Trust,” but also prevents local currency minters from printing currency with marks which closely resemble those familiar U.S. marks, such as “Trust in God.” 18 U.S.C. § 485 protects against local money being printed and passed off as official legal tender of the U.S. Additionally, 18 U.S.C. § 486 prohibits individuals and organizations from creating “current money,” private coin and currency systems to compete with the official coinage and currency of the U.S. as the recognized legal tender.

In this case, prosecutors alleged that von NotHaus, and his organization National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve and Internal Revenue Code (NORFED), minted Liberty Dollar currency with features that resembled U.S. coin and currency. Additionally, prosecutors alleged that based upon the widespread sale of the Liberty Dollar through the U.S. and Puerto Rico, “NORFEDs purpose was to mix Liberty Dollars into the current money of the U.S.”

Von NotHaus, who remains free on bond, faces a sentence of up to 15 years imprisonment on count two of the indictment and a fine of not more than $250,000. Von NotHaus faces a prison sentence of five years and fines of $250,000 on both counts one and three. In addition, the United States is seeking the forfeiture of approximately 16,000 pounds of Liberty Dollar coins and precious metals, currently valued at nearly $7 million. For more information, please contact us at contact@fidjlaw.com.