In early November, German law enforcement concluded an investigation into a multi-month spree of counterfeit euro use spread throughout several towns in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s Lake District. After collecting evidence and descriptions from shopkeepers and salespersons, the Criminal Investigation Department in one of the impacted towns identified a 19-year-old suspect in Strasburg. Police raided the teenager’s house and found “extensive evidence” that the suspect had purchased large numbers of fake euros from a darknet vendor and then spent the notes at unsuspecting shops in the region.
The widespread use of counterfeit currency is nothing new to German authorities. In late 2016, Germany suffered from a major influx of counterfeit euro notes. The majority of the notes—if authorities told the truth at press conferences and strategy meetings—had arrived in Germany through various darknet market vendors. Several so called “printshops” for producing the counterfeit notes surfaced between 2016 and 2017, but the much larger sources of notes came from international crime syndicates focused on counterfeit currency production. DeepDotWeb covered news on one syndicate that, at one point, controlled 90% of the counterfeit euro trade: the infamous “Napoli Group.” German fraudsters, even before the darknet, relied on Napoli Group notes. As counterfeit euro demand increased, Germany became one syndicate’s most profitable markets.
During a press event in early 2017, a spokesperson for the Landeskriminalamt (LKA) announced a projected decline in counterfeit use in Germany by the end of the year. This, according to the LKA, would happen thanks to the growing detection rate of fake notes by shop owners and bank employees. According to a Bloomberg report, the use of counterfeit currency during the first six months of had increased by 8 percent. Despite the increased number of counterfeit notes in circulation, there was some success in the LKA’s campaign against counterfeit currency. It increased the victim’s ability to spot the fakes, and thanks to increased public education and printouts on counterfeit cash, police ultimately found and arrested the 19-year-old fraudster.
The LKA began interviewing shopkeepers—especially when the shopkeeper noticed the note before depositing it at the bank—in order to construct a profile of the suspect. After a “meticulous” investigation, the LKA had discovered that one person had travelled to the majority of the stores affected.
The Neubrandenburg prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for a 19-year-old in Strasburg. German law enforcement then raided the teenager’s property and found evidence pertaining to the counterfeiting crime. In addition to counterfeit euro notes, the police reported finding evidence that connected the suspect to counterfeit use throughout the region. They also discovered that the counterfeit notes had come from a darknet vendor. In a statement, the prosecutor said that the investigation was “just beginning.” The evaluation of the evidence seized, combined with the discovery that the counterfeits had originated from a darknet marketplace, and led the police to believe that the case required further investigation.