A humble American lived for 10 years on counterfeit dollars

Posted on Aug 5, 2021      61

The “Great Depression,” which gripped the United States at the turn of the twenties and thirties of the last century, was a terrible ordeal for the people of the country. Millions of people lost their jobs, so they were forced to look for any way to make a living. Others tried to cash in on the crisis. For example, by engaging in counterfeiting. Even the elderly garbage man Emerich Juttner, who, incidentally, was called an “honest counterfeiter,” had to break the law.

One day, in 1938, the owner of a tobacco shop in New York City took the proceeds to the bank. The cashier, while counting the money, drew attention to a strange bill of one dollar. The banknote was made of very low quality paper; the letters were written carelessly, even the U.S. President George Washington, pictured on the dollar, was little like himself.

The relevant services were interested in the strange fake. It soon turned out that such a counterfeit dollar was far from being the only one in New York. There were dozens of such “masterpieces” in the hands of intelligence officers. But for a long time, it was impossible to find the manufacturer of such dollars. A criminal case was opened under the number 880, and the mysterious counterfeiter was called “Mr. 880”.

It was possible to get on the trail of the culprit quite by chance after ten years. A fire broke out in a house in New York. Firefighters arrived and threw the tenants’ belongings out of the windows, and a few days later, local police officers noticed that children living near the burned-out house were playing with one-dollar bills. Very similar, by the way, to those that ended up in the hands of the police ten years ago.

The guards of the law could find out that these dollars before the fire had been in the apartment of the humble Emerich Juttner, who for years had been collecting garbage in the dumps of New York. The more or less valuable items he found were sold for a pittance. During the “Great Depression,” Juttner was fired from his job and could not find a new one because of his advanced age. As a young man, Uttner came to the United States from Austria in pursuit of the “American dream,” but at the end of his years, he found himself destitute.

Emerich Juttner remembered that in his youth he had been quite good at drawing, so he used those skills to make a living. At home, he built a printing press, on which he made counterfeit banknotes. And, the only face value - $1. As Yuttner himself later said, he felt remorse, so he did not dare to make larger denominations.

He did not make large batches of dollars, printed exactly as much as was needed for a modest existence - about 15 dollars a week. In addition, he tried not to pay twice in the same store. Therefore, for a long time, Yuttner remained unnoticed. But, at the age of 73, he found himself in the dock.

The court was humane to the elderly man and gave him a sentence of 1 year and 1 day in jail. Plus a $1 fine. The attorney assured the judge that his client had not set out to enrich himself, but was simply struggling to survive. Juttner spent four months behind bars and was released early.

He returned to the humble life of a pensioner, not even suspecting that he would soon become a wealthy man. The thing is that this unusual story interested in Hollywood. For participation in the script's preparation, Emerich Juttner received a good salary, which allowed him to live out the rest of his days without need. He earned more for his participation in the film's preparation than he did in his entire ten-year career as a counterfeiter. At the age of 79, Emerich Juttner died in a Long Island suburb.

Interestingly enough, the operation to find counterfeiter Emerich Juttner was quite costly. Over 200,000 flyers were produced, and at least 10,000 New York City stores were instructed.