Napoli Group Counterfeiters Arrested in Bavarian Operation

The Bavarian State Office for Criminal Investigation seized more than 100,000 counterfeit Euro notes during a lengthy investigation into a so-called called “counterfeiting gang” responsible for producing and selling counterfeit Euro notes in Naples, Italy. Some readers might remember a connection between Naples and counterfeit Euro notes. The connection, as investigations conducted by Europol and law enforcement in both Italy and Germany have received, has existed for well over a decade.

A notorious criminal organization in Naples known as the Napoli Group has effectively controlled the counterfeit Euro market for years. At one point, authorities estimated that at least 90 percent of the counterfeit notes in circulation had been introduced by the Napoli Group. The group sold notes long before the darknet existed. They utilized methods of transportation that guaranteed the safety of drivers. They crossed borders with notes hidden in secret compartments of vehicles. That ignored no distribution route. So when darknet markets came to fruition, the Napoli Group quickly set up shop on several darknet markets.

The timeline of the Napoli Group’s darknet ventures is hard to follow. In December 2016, Europol and the Italian Guardia di Finanza arrested Carmine Guerriero and several other Napoli Group members for distributing the notes via the darknet. Although law enforcement had successfully completed an operation and ended a counterfeiting career, the operation had little impact on the Napoli Group’s activities. The Napoli Group stuck—for the most part—to their traditional methods of transportation and operation after the Guerriero arrest.

Several associates landed in custody for ordinary criminal organization activities. But Napoli Group notes surfaced on the darknet again, albeit in small quantities. Guerriero received a five-year sentence. His family members also received sentences that would have prevented them from venturing back into the world of selling counterfeit notes on the darknet. So the police determined that the Napoli Group had tested the waters of the darknet once again.

The Bavarian State Criminal Police Office ended their investigation with the arrest of three men for their role in trafficking counterfeit Euro notes. They had been physically trafficking notes from Naples to Bavaria. But during the course in the investigation, the police learned that the counterfeit note market changed. They learned that even though the majority of the counterfeits come from Italy (and specifically from Naples), up to 30 percent of counterfeit Euros leave Italy via the post. Darknet sales make up a significant portion of the Napoli Group’s counterfeit income.

The police also said that the darknet allowed the counterfeiters to conduct fewer physical trafficking operations—for materials, at least. The majority of the supplies come from darknet suppliers as well. Even though counterfeit circulation is currently down in Germany, the police know the Napoli Group has not given up counterfeiting. International raids only slowed them for a year or two.