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December 4, 1982

 

There has never been a shortage of interesting money related stories. This excerpt, from the December 4, 1982 issue of Numismatic News, illustrates the fascinating characters that are connected to the world of money.

Judge sends thousands of $22 bills to shredder

A federal judge in New Orleans has authorized the shredding of thousands of $22 bills seized last year from a man who calls himself “Love 22.”

U.S. District Judge Morey Sear ruled Nov. 11 that the pseudo money – some 7,000 bills in all – could properly be destroyed by the Secret Service.

“It is really deceptively similar to real United States currency,” Sear said.

According to authorities, Love 22 – a former advertising executive once known as Lawrence Wagner – made the $22 bills by cutting up genuine $1, $2 and $20 bills and pasting together the pieces in a montage together the pieces in a montage with his own face in the center. Next to his “portrait” they said, was a mystical chart of the alphabet.

The Secret Service seized the bills March 4, 1981 – the day after last year’s Mardi Gras – and also arrested Love 22, who was selling them at the time for 22 cents apiece in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

He later was acquitted of a charge of selling facsimiles of real money following a trial with a circus atmosphere. Technically, he was charged with “circulating a handbill or advertisement in the likeness of a Federal Reserve bill.”

Love 22, a Rhode Island native, gave up his career in advertising six years ago and formally changed his name after becoming aware, so he said, of the mystical significance of the number 22. Thereafter, he began traveling widely in a converted school buss and helped finance his activities by selling his special $22 bills.

At the time of his arrest, he said he was running for president of the United States and using the profits from sale of the bills to underwrite his White House campaign.

During his arraignment and trial, the bearded, long-haired Love 22 showed up at the courthouse in a rumpled blue suit and a star-spangled Uncle Sam hat. The proceeding had an air of levity with those in attendance – including the lawyers – barely restraining laughter on occasion.

Though Love 22 was acquitted, the government succeeded in gaining suppression of his “money.” Secret Service agent Thomas Ryan argued that any photocopying of genuine U.S. currency constitutes counterfeiting, and to dramatize the point, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marilyn Barnes lugged out stacks, sheets and boxes containing the thousands of confiscated $22 bills.

The defense attorney, Jack Mulvihill, argued at the trial that the bills were not “likenesses” of genuine currency, as alleged by the government.

“It is an exact likeness,” Barnes shot back. “It is a composite of three genuine currencies.” Mulvihill produced a copy of the New Orleans Times-Picayune in which there was a full-page Chrysler Corp. advertisement featuring a facsimile of a genuine $50 bill.

Ryan agreed that this, too, was counterfeit – “if by definition we say that genuine currency was used to produce this.”

Love 22 wasn’t in the courtroom when Judge Sear rendered his verdict that the $22 bills could be destroyed. The lawyer representing him there argued, however, that the bills were novelty items and weren’t any more harmful than Monopoly money.

“Love 22 is not trying to defraud anybody by selling these bills,” the lawyer, Henry Dart, asserted.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry Pastuszek retorted that half a dozen people had been cheated by con men who were passing off the bills as the real thing.

“The government has the right, of course, to ensure that its currency is inviolate,” Pastusek said.

One of the fooled, he said, was a city judge in either Montana or Idaho who accepted one of the bills in payment for a $20 fine.