American related to Idi Amin admits to counterfeiting millions of US Dollar
Ryan Andrew Gustafson, 28, is married to Taban Amin's daughter Sherry Amin. His parents are missionaries living in Rwanda.
PENNSYLVANIA | An American national arrested in 2014 in connection with printing of more than $1.4 million (Shs4.1 billion at the time) fake dollars in a syndicate that was headquartered in Kampala has admitted to his role in an international counterfeiting operation.
Ryan Andrew Gustafson, 28, an American married to the granddaughter of former President Idi Amin Dada, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and counterfeiting counts on Thursday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Gustafson and his local associates were arrested after Police raided his home in Namugongo in Kampala in December 2014 where Police found fake US dollar bills, computers, printers and life-like rubber gloves called ‘Anon Hands’ designed to conceal fingerprints.
A subsequent raid on a hotel room he was using in the central business district had also yielded millions of fake dollar bills.
In 2014, Daily Monitor reported of the arrest and indictment of Gustafson and his associates, quoting the US grand jury as hearing that the fake dollar notes, in the denominations of $20, $50 and $100 bills, were printed in Kampala, packaged inside boxes of brochures that appeared to be originating from a Christian-based charity for poor children in Uganda.
“In December 2014, Sunday Monitor broke a story indicating how the fake dollar syndicate had hit local banks hard. This followed the arrest of Gustafson, whom local police said was found with bundles of fake $50 bills in his house in Mbalwa, Namugongo in Wakiso District near the capital Kampala,” Daily Monitor reported.
Police said Gustafson was found in possession of seven money printing machines with different colours of cartridges, three pairs of US army uniforms with inscription “Ryan Andrew” and a US army bag.
The arrest came after a transaction in which Stanbic Bank branch in Kakira, Jinja District, was fleeced of $300,000 (about Shs800m) in a fake dollar exchange transaction the previous month, the newspaper added.
The bank worked with Police and mounted a hunt for the suspects, who were identified after looking at the photographs that they had left at Kakira branch as a requirement when they deposited the fake dollars.
In 2014, Gustafson was arraigned before Buganda Road Chief Magistrate’s Court and charged jointly with a Ugandan Christopher Kojo in Kampala and remanded to Luzira Prison.
Whereas FBI put the total sum of the fabricated dollars at $1.4 million, the Uganda Police, at the time of Gustafson’s arrest in December, said the amount exceeded $1 billion and had been let out in circulation.
US picks interest
The US secret agents picked interest in the case since it had earlier issued an alert that a retired American army colonel named Jack Ferral had entered Uganda and was printing fake dollars, which were being circulated in the economy.
Gustafson, who is the son of missionaries and is originally from Montana, was extradited to Pittsburgh in December 2015 to face trial.
Asked by US District Judge Mark Hornak how he pleaded, he answered ‘guilty’ to three counts and acknowledged responsibility for others which can be considered at sentencing.
He faces charges including conspiracy to manufacture and sell counterfeit currency, conspiracy to launder money and committing counterfeiting acts outside the US.
Gustafson is married to Sherry Amin Gustafson, daughter of Taban Amin, according to TribLive.com.
Gustafson is accused of leading an international counterfeit US currency operation headquartered in Uganda, which flooded the country and the US with more than $2 million in counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes.
Although counterfeit notes were manufactured in Uganda, by December 2013, the bills were being passed in Pittsburgh-area retail stores and businesses.
His plea deal calls for a sentence of 74 months, which takes into account time he already served in a Ugandan prison for counterfeiting.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Shardul Desai claimed that in 2013 he set up a site on the dark web called Community-X, which was dedicated to buying and selling counterfeit bills.
He used the pseudonym ‘Willy Clock’ or ‘Jack Farrel’ for his operation, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
He later split the site into two, using one to sell and ship counterfeit money to US customers who would wire him real money as payment.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, one customer was Joe Graziano, a former Bank of New York Mellon employee in Pittsburgh who used a fake bill to buy a latte at Peet’s Coffee Shop in Oakland in 2013.
That transaction launched the investigation that led to Gustafson.
Graziano was sentenced to to seven and a half years in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $4 million in restitution to various corporate victims he defrauded through various financial scams.
Gustafson is due to be sentenced on July 23 although that date could change. If convicted of the charges, he faces for a prison sentence of 45 years, a fine of $1,000,000, or both.
Sherdal Desai said Gustafson is a flight risk as his wife and child are in Uganda and he has insisted that he wants to be with them there.
“He fought aggressively to prevent his deportation back to the US, including refusing a medical examination,” Desai said in court papers.
Gustafson’s missionary parents are living in Rwanda, and he’s spent most of his life in Africa despite his ties to the US, Desai said.
Additional Reporting by Agencies | Daily Mail, UK