Updated August 17th, 2021
A Cologne resident is suspected of having printed hundreds of thousands of euros in counterfeit money. Investigators discover the counterfeiting workshop in the southern part of Cologne.
According to an assessment by the Federal Criminal Police Office, one of the largest counterfeit money productions in recent years has been exposed. The counterfeiting workshop was located in the southern part of Cologne “em Veedel”, on Wormser Strasse. From there, notes were brought into circulation in half of Europe via the Darknet. The Cologne police informed about this in a press release.
The police have had successes after the investigations into nationwide operating counterfeiters, which have been ongoing since November 2020. The police action was carried out in cooperation with the officers of the Cologne Police Department, the State Criminal Police Offices of Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg, the Berlin police and the Federal Criminal Police Office.
Two arrest warrants were executed on July 14 and 15 as part of a large-scale police operation involving more than 90 officers. The officials accuse a 33-year-old of running a forgery workshop in Cologne. He is suspected of commercial counterfeiting and of bringing counterfeit money into circulation in half of Europe.
In addition, the investigators arrested a 40-year-old buyer from Baden-Württemberg. Furthermore, a 26-year-old German-Moroccan intermediary who lives in Berlin went online. The two arrested people in Berlin and in Breisgau resold the counterfeit money as “resellers”.
The 26-year-old from Berlin would have obtained the notes in several tranches. For the handover, he had traveled specially from Berlin by train to Cologne. He resold the fakes via the Telegram messenger. He wanted to get a permanent source of income through the sale.
The officials were able to convict him of the act through so-called sham purchases. According to the Berlin public prosecutor’s office, the man is suspected of having obtained around 600 counterfeit notes (around 56,000 euros). When he was questioned, he was already confessing. Despite his arrest warrant, he would have been released from pre-trial detention. The other two suspects are still in custody.
Berlin investigators have become aware of the case because of the increased number of counterfeit money in the capital. The public prosecutor said: “Since the beginning of the year, counterfeit notes of this type with a total value of around 85,000 euros have been seized, of which around 25,000 euros actually ended up in payment transactions.” This is about a third of all notes spent in Berlin in 2021. A large part of the false banknotes could be secured beforehand, reports the Berliner Zeitung.
According to his statement, the suspect from Baden-Württemberg never met his Cologne business partner. He would have obtained the notes by post and paid with a cryptocurrency. However, like the Cologne-based company, he would have resold them via the Darknet.
The 33-year-old from Cologne was no longer a stranger to the police officers. He has already served a term of imprisonment for drug offenses. He was released in September last year. He then turned directly to counterfeit money production on a large scale, albeit with modest means.
He only used a conventional color printer to print counterfeit money. He also used commercially available, but at least higher quality copy paper. In addition a ruler and cutting tool. The accessories can be found in an office supply store. Hologram stickers illegally acquired from China should make the banknotes appear genuine. According to Chief Public Prosecutor Markus Hartmann from the Cologne-based central and contact point Cybercrime NRW, the Cologne native also brought in “a lot of criminal energy”.
Klaus Stephan Becker, head of the crime department of the Cologne police, assessed:
“The main suspect is possibly the largest manufacturer and distributor of counterfeit money in recent years”.
The quality of the notes he printed was not of outstanding quality, but they were sufficient, “for example, if you want to shop quickly at the kiosk”. A security thread is missing in the middle of the notes, as is the watermark on the left and the transparent portrait window on the top right. In addition, all notes have the same serial number. Becker points out: “A bill validator, such as the one available in the supermarket, would have recognized the forgeries”. The Cologne man forged in particular 20, 50 and 100 euro bills, which appeared in Belgium, Italy and Poland, among others.
Just two months after his release from prison, the police were investigating him again. In the end, sending the parcels was his undoing. The investigators found his trail thanks to a coincidence. The Cologne resident sent the counterfeit money with real, foreign addresses as the sender, like that of a Cologne businessman. This shipment in particular went back. After opening the package, the businessman saw the notes and turned them directly to the police.
According to the current status of the investigation, the Cologne native is said to have offered the notes on the Darknet for a fifth of the nominal value. Becker explains: “For 1,000 euros counterfeit money you received 200 euros”. Hartmann states: “We are talking about serious crime here”. The minimum imprisonment for this is two years. A further complicating factor for the suspect is that he had only recently committed a criminal offense.
In the course of the house searches on July 14th and 15th, the investigators searched six properties in Cologne and in the Rhein-Erft district as well as in Kempten in the Allgäu and Breisach am Rhein. In the suspect’s headquarters in Cologne, the police officers hid them well and found real cash amounting to 15,000 euros, reported the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. Furthermore, 20,000 euros in fake banknotes were secured there. In addition, scraps of paper “that would have been enough for a further 240,000 euros” were confiscated, as Stephan Becker informed. In addition, extensive evidence and counterfeit money in the five-digit range were collected.
The investigation into the case is still ongoing. The investigators assume that there are other “resellers”. You want to get hold of them as the target of the ongoing investigation.