Bill sets up felony for using ‘movie money’ to buy things in Iowa

DES MOINES — Three members of the Iowa House have voted to advance a bill that would make it a felony to use fake “movie money” to buy things in Iowa.

Representative Megan Jones of Sioux Rapids went online and found a bundle of fake 100 dollar bills cost $7. “This is motion picture money and it looks a lot like real money,” Jones says, “but what’s happening is people are buying this in bundles on Amazon and using it to purchase goods and services.”

A business owner in northwest Iowa contacted Jones after an employee mistakenly accepted fake “movie prop money” for a large purchase. “It looks a lot like real money, but in the same font, the same size it’ll say, ‘For motion picture use only’ or on the back in some little letters it’ll say, ‘Copy,” Jones says, “so the argument in court then is that this is clearly not money and so they shouldn’t have taken it as legal tender, but it was purported to be by the customer.”

The bill defines “movie prop money” as fake bills used by filmmakers and photographers in theatrical productions or in print, like magazines. If the bill becomes law, someone convicted of using “movie prop money” to buy goods or services could be sentenced to up to five years in an Iowa prison — and the fine could be as high as $7,500.

The bill doesn’t make “movie prop money” illegal because Jones says it does have a legitimate use on the stage and screen. “When people are making music videos or making movies, they just need something that looks like money to have a trunk full of cash or a suitcase full of money, or the infamous briefcase full of bundled bills,” Jones says.

Late last year, the sheriff’s department in Marshall, Missouri, warned businesses after fake movie prop money — with the markings indicating it was fake — was being used in the area. Making or using counterfeit bills that have no markings indicating they are fake is a federal crime. It carries a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison.