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Counterfeit money scam: Notes still in circulation

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image captionThe court was told high quality fake sterling and euros were being produced

Some fake notes that were part of a £1m counterfeiting scam are still in circulation, a court has been told.

Downpatrick Crown Court heard they were being sold at a rate of £200 for £1,000 worth of fake notes, according to text messages found on seized mobile phones.

Three men admitted counterfeiting the money in October 2018.

At the same hearing, a further four men pleaded guilty to passing some of the counterfeit notes in November 2014.

Mark Johnson, 47, of Glen Rise in Belfast, was described as the head of the operation.

His brother, 46-year-old Andrew Johnson of Alveston Park, Carryduff, is said to have played a lesser role.

A third man, 28-year-old Gareth Gorman, of Queen's Avenue Newtownabbey, was described by his defence as a gopher who made a room in his house available for the operation after Mark Johnson acted as guarantor for his rental application.

image captionTwo of the counterfeiters Mark Johnston and Andrew Johnston, leaving court at an earlier hearing

The operation was uncovered after police stopped a car containing four Belfast men in Newtownards in November 2014 after reports about a group of four men passing counterfeit notes in County Down.

In the car were Samuel Terrance Horner, 49, of Best's Hill, Belfast; 25-year-old James Wallace Titley Robinson, Forthriver Road, Belfast; 27-year-old Alan Thompson of Drumart Drive, Belfast and 35-year-old Norman Charles Titley of Abbey Park, Belfast.

Fingerprints on notes

Fingerprints of Gorman and Johnson were found on the notes.

Police then seized items used in the counterfeiting, including a paper trimmer, stamps, silver foil, a laminator and dyes

The prosecution said there was a third layer involved in the case that had not been uncovered - individuals who had been involved with passing the notes between the producers and the spenders.

A judge opened the plea and sentence hearing by stating that there is no guideline either in England or here for this type of offence.

As such he told the court that the men will be sentenced in the next fortnight.