In November, the Hamburg State Criminal Police (LKA) arrested Peyman F., a 22-year-old counterfeiter. Officers caught the suspect with two packages of fake euro notes. He almost arrived at the post office to ship the packages to darknet buyers.
Uwe Kelting, the Hamburg Chief Inspector, said “this was a great success for us.” Investigators discovered fake notes totaling 100,000 euros in value. Fake euros were a major concern for the Federal Criminal Police (BKA) in 2016. According to a BKA report, counterfeiting crimes increased by 42 percent since 2015. Additionally, the counterfeiters were making notes that were far more realistic.
The 22-year-old and his girlfriend, police said, were part of a “counterfeiting gang.” Police arrested the suspect’s 20-year-old girlfriend for her suspected role in the operation. The other accomplices were still under investigation. For this reason, LKA officials refused to disclose further information about the gang. Yet, they noted that the 22-year-old was the leader and primary suspect.
Police arrested the leader on his way to the Trittau post office and searched both packages. Investigators found 2,000 fake 50-euro notes—worth roughly $105,605. Police also found more counterfeit euros in the suspect’s BMW. Next, officers from the LKA executed search warrants for the suspect’s apartment. The apartment contained the usual counterfeiting workshop supplies. Police discovered printers, computers, cell phones, special paper, and shipping supplies.
Local law enforcement began the investigation upon discovering the suspect’s listings online. He sold the fake euros on the darknet and clearnet, investigators said. Officers ordered the fake euros on several occasions. The suspect sold his 50-note euros for eight dollars per note. Six dollars per note if a customer purchased in bulk.
Kelting said Peyman F.’s notes were of decent quality. “But, like every counterfeit note, they are recognizable as false money,” he told the press. He continued, saying that such notes were best used as “party money in dim lighting. People who buy counterfeit notes aim to use them in clubs.”
Another use for the notes, the Chief Inspector explained, was for “eBay classified ads.” Peyman F. made routine purchases via this method since February this year.
Kelting spoke about the quality of the notes:
Many security features of genuine currency were missing. Nevertheless, it would not be difficult for perpetrators to put such counterfeits into circulation – especially on Christmas markets or in the supermarket. December is traditionally considered a ‘high season’ for counterfeiters.
He further explained how to identify the notes despite the realistic “Chinese hologram”:
When the hologram sparkles and reflects it impresses a cashier or waitress. One should pay attention to the color change on the numbers. Also, real notes are corrugated. No one can make them.
The LKA announced they were unsure of how many notes were in circulation. Peyman F. started circulating the notes in February, investigators said. LKA officials further explained that the suspect only exchanged the notes for bitcoin. And darknet customers were difficult to identify. Thus, the time required to remove notes from circulation was unknown.
Kelting revealed that authorities forensically examined the electronic devices from the suspect’s apartment. Examination of the cell phones resulted in the identification of local buyers. As a result, the non-darknet buyers were now under investigation.
Neither of the arrested suspects said a word at their hearing. They also declined to comment to reporters on the scene. The primary suspect, Peyman F. faces a minimum sentence of two years in prison. His girlfriend’s role is currently unknown.