A 29-year-old Austrian man stood in front of a judge at the Tettnang District Court where he faced prison time for ordering and then using counterfeit euros he had purchased on the darknet. Due to the man’s living situation, time spent in jail while waiting for trial, and full confession, the judge passed down a one year suspended sentence.
The beginning of the 29-year-old’s tale began sometime in November 2017. He needed money and had no source of income. He owed 450 euros for his electricity usage that month and the power company had already threatened to cut the electricity to his home. He explained that he saw no legal way to get out of the mess he had gotten himself into. So, from his home in Götzis, Vorarlberg, Austria, he visited the darknet and found a useable market. He then found a counterfeit euro vendor who sold notes in small quantities. The 29-year-old ordered 15 counterfeit 50-euro notes. The vendor added two more for free. For 85 euros, the buyer purchased fake euros notes with a combined total of 850 euros and face value.
Buying counterfeit notes and using them to turn a profit is a ludicrous and rarely fruitful venture for almost any counterfeit buyer. DeepDotWeb has hundreds of examples of counterfeit buyers getting arrested. The vendors turn a profit. Remember the Napoli Group?
“I saw it as the last resort,” the 29-year-old told the judge when called “pretty stupid” by one of the recipients of his notes.
But the method used to successfully turn a profit with a set of average counterfeit notes defeats the purpose of even using the notes. Like any dirty money, the fakes need to be turned into clean money. Or real money. For obvious reasons, spending a 50-euro note on a candy bar to receive clean change is not feasible. So the purchases need to be more realistic. Spending a 50-note on something that costs 35 euros, for instance. The counterfeit buyer now has 15 clean euros and must avoid the same shop for a long time. Shops often warn nearby shops once they catch someone trying to pass off counterfeit notes. So the fraudster must then travel to a shop that would not have contact with the original shop. And repeat.
No successful run would even match the earnings a teenager could make working for minimum wage. Given the ‘average’ quality of notes used, only few locations and time periods work. Daytime is out. Counterfeiters usually have some success in the nightlife scene or anywhere with darkness, noise, and distracted employees. The game changes with quality notes, according to the few vendors who allegedly sell quality notes.
Like an ‘experienced’ counterfeit user, the 29-year-old took the common sense route. He took a train from his hometown to Friedrichshafen, Germany. He arrived in the evening of November 30, 2017. The desperate man planned to use the counterfeit 50-notes at bars and keep the change. He proceeded to get intoxicated at a restaurant and promptly thrown out for attempting to pay with a fake euro note.
After failing on his first attempt, the man decided to try again. He entered the bar adjacent to the restaurant. He lucked out; the restaurant had not called the bar until after he had paid and vacated the area. After the bar got a call from the restaurant, the bar spotted the note and called the police. The 29-year-old had seemingly not vacated far enough. Officers picked him up shortly after showing up to the bar.
In the courtroom, Judge Max Märkle called the barista to detail her encounter. There was little need for testimonies as the defendant had already admitted he had used a counterfeit note. The testimony furthered the prosecutor’s goal to ensure incarceration. Judge Märkle saw it differently. The defendant claimed he had learned his lesson while in jail and the judge believed him. The crime itself was a relatively insignificant crime, given he had effectively failed at circulating any notes. But the defendant was already on parole in Germany. The prosecution argued that the defendant was not a one-time criminal. In fact, the very crime that landed him in the system occurred on multiple occasions; he had been having sexual relations with a 13-year-old girl. Routinely.
But Judge Märkle had pity on the man and suspended a one year sentence.