The Scene. County currents and undercurrents


Record - 113 DIALOG(R)File 714:(Baltimore) The Sun (c) 2004 Baltimore Sun. All rts. reserv.


You can save it, spend it, burn it and even worship it. But you'd better not print it -- unless you follow certain guidelines.

That's the word about money from the United States Secret Service at a meeting sponsored by the Advertising & Graphic Arts Society of Howard County (AGAS) on Nov. 29 at the Owen Brown Community Center in Columbia.

The seminar was arranged by Jim Liller, AGAS program chairman, to educate the advertising community about the current restrictions on printing paper currency for advertising purposes.

"I'm often asked by designers what we could legally print with money facsimiles," said Liller. "I wasn't sure of the laws. Even the printing industry of Maryland isn't sure."

Until four years ago, it was illegal to replicate money. The government has since relaxed its regulations with various restrictions: money can be printed only in black ink on white paper. It also has to be less than three-quarters or greater than one and one-half times the size of an actual bill.

"You cannot print any portion of currency unless you follow these guidelines," said Bill Utley, a pistol-packing, 15-year veteran of the Secret Service.

"Soon as you use color or the correct size, it's illegal. Even if you put a picture of your mother on it." Nor can money be duplicated on a copier -- no matter what the color or size. "If you Xerox money, you've just committed a 15-year felony. You've manufactured counterfeit money," said Utley.

If a printer errs, the government will assume ignorance -- the first time.

"We tell you to cease and desist all printing. We explain the law, seize everything you've printed and get all the stock back we can," said Utley.

Negatives and plates are also confiscated.

"Counterfeiting currency is like dope -- it can be seized," he said. "We will confiscate the car that's transporting it, the shop that prints it."

If it happens a second time, the printer can look forward to an exciting new career in the growing license plate industry.

Or, as Utley put it, "We go to the United States Attorney's Office for a warrant for your arrest."

A printer unsure of his design is encouraged to make sure.

"If you have a question, call. You might even have to send the design to the office," said Utley. "But we'd rather see your design initially up front than embarrass you and your client later on and seize the stock."

Replicating official documents, including postage stamps, driver's licenses and library cards is also illegal.

"You have to be careful as a printer what you're asked to print," said Utley.

There are no laws, though, against desecrating the dollar. The Treasury Department even sells uncut sheets of dollar bills for personal use.

"Department stores use it for wrapping paper," he noted. "But you'd better check (to see if it's real) before you rip."

The only guideline to altering paper money, explained Utley, is that it can't be done "to the extent you can sell it for a higher value."

Utley cautioned that if counterfeit cash does come your way, the buck better stop there.

"If you knowingly pass counterfeit money, you can go to jail. It's no excuse that you didn't want to get stuck with a loss," he said.

"We will pursue you just as diligently for passing it knowingly as we will the printer. No one may legally possess counterfeit money but us."

Now if only real money was worth the paper it's printed on.

SOURCE: Rona Hirsch


If you are familiar with Columbia then you know that each village center is anchored by a supermarket.

The supermarket of choice throughout Columbia seems to be Giant, for better or for worse.

The village center for Hickory Ridge, where I live, is now being built.

Its supermarket will also be a Giant.

I think it was about a year ago that my wife and I were surveyed by phone and asked what supermarket we wanted. We responded "Safeway." We lost.

We wanted to have some competition against the nearby Giant in Wilde Lake Village Center, where we now shop.

Giant, which also has stores in Owen Brown, Dorsey's Search and Kings Contrivance, is not really a bad supermarket, but we find the meats and vegetables at Giant don't measure up to what we were used to at Safeway.

Sometimes we still drive across town, a substantial 10-mile round trip, to shop at Safeway, the only Safeway in Columbia, even though the Giant is less than a three-mile round trip.

The village centers of Hickory Ridge and Wilde Lake will be only a few miles apart, so it really doesn't seem to make sense to locate two identical supermarkets so close together.

SOURCE: Rick Belz


Inspired by the recent earthquake-mania in New Madrid, Mo., and Blacksburg, Va., Ellicott City insurance agent Carol Katsampis sent her clients form letters regarding homeowner's earthquake coverage.

Katsampis, whose Nationwide Insurance office is in the Bethany 40 Shopping Center, wanted to let her customers know that earth movement -- earthquakes, landslides and sink holes -- is not included in their regular homeowner's packages.

"However, you can buy back this exclusion," her letter reads. "An endorsement for earthquake coverage can be added to your policy."

Although earthquakes are not commonplace on the East Coast, at least 23 have occurred in the Washington-Maryland-Pennsylvania area since the mid-1700s.

Some of the larger quakes took place in Baltimore (March 1883), Southern Maryland (January 1885), Washington (February 1973) and Marticville, Pa.

(April 1984).

"People don't think it can happen to them," said Katsampis. "I sent them the letters as a customer service."

Katsampis says that many basic and even some rather devastating things are routinely not included in homeowner's premiums.

"For instance, most insurance doesn't cover the damage if your sewers or drains get backed up," said Katsampis.

"A more extreme example would be nuclear radiation. I'm sure that the residents of Three Mile Island wished they had added some sort of radiation coverage to their policies."

Eldon Yoder, vice president and manager of personal lines coverage for V.W. Brown Insurance Services in the Atholton Village Shopping Center, says that he is not aware of any local carriers who include earthquake coverage in their homeowner's or dwelling fire policies.

V.W. Brown offers earth movement coverage at a rate of 50 cents per $1,000 annually for a brick home or 30 cents per $1,000 for a frame or non-brick home. For a $100,000 house, this amounts to an additional $50 or $30 per year.

"People have to decide if it's worth paying for something that really doesn't pose much of a risk," said Yoder.

With all the media attention given to earthquakes lately, county residents need not panic if they hear unexplained movement on their rooftops or rumblings in the chimney this holiday season.

It's probably something else.

SOURCE: Marc LeGoff

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