Franz Felhaber: Money Talks

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A Texas businessman, Franz Felhaber, raised more than a few eyebrows at the U.S. Treasury Department last week when he showed up with a suitcase stuffed with over $5 million of rotting $100 bills and asked to exchange them for a cashier’s check. Federal authorities investigating the case explain that Felhaber is no stranger to the swap-and-run game; over the years, they assert, “he and his family have popped in and out of U.S. banks, looking to change about $20 million in decaying $100 bills for clean cash.”

The problem, according to authorities, isn’t so much the requests for the exchange, but the litany of “ever-changing stories” that Felhaber and his clan have thrown out to various banks to explain why they just happened to have bags of burned-out old cash lying around—some of the most memorable being “Somebody dug up a tree and there it was,” “It was found in a suitcase buried in an alfalfa field,” and our particular favorite, “It was buried in a coffin until [a relative] discovered a treasure map.”

While Felhaber admits that he may have been “mistaken in his interviews with investigators,” he has also bristled at repeated suggestions that he may be—please be sitting down as you read this—lying about where the money came from. As he has noted, “They take you to your word like you’re supposed to remember every single thing every single time.”

Well, yes. Yes they do. As financial analysts studying the case have explained, that’s just one irritating downside of answering the question “Where did you find this giant sack of old cash?” with any combination of the words “coffin,” “alfalfa field” and “treasure map.” [CNN]

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