Billion Dollar Idea Goes Bust

Feds seize 250 rather large, rather fake bills from bold smuggler

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Billion Dollar Idea Goes Bust

MARCH 15--We're not sure what he planned to do with them, but an admitted smuggler recently led Secret Service agents to 250 counterfeit $1 billion notes that had been stained to make it appear they were issued in 1934.

The phony bills were seized last week by federal investigators who learned of the bad paper from Tekle Zigetta, who pleaded guilty yesterday to a federal charge of failing to declare $37,000 in currency upon his return to Los Angeles in January from South Korea.

Zigetta, 45, has not been charged with a crime in connection with the $1 billion notes, photos of which you can find on the following pages.

The counterfeit bills are based on actual $1000 notes that carried a portrait of former President Grover Cleveland and the signatures of Treasury secretary Henry Morgenthau and U.S. Treasurer W.A. Julian.

Though it is hard to believe that someone might believe the bills to be real, investigators contend that the phony notes could be used as part of an elaborate swindle by a con artist. (3 pages)