Fourth member of £12m counterfeiting group jailed

A fourth member of an organized crime group has been jailed for conspiring to provide more than £12million worth of counterfeit banknotes.

Farningham resident Andrew Ainsworth, 61, was convicted of conspiracy to produce counterfeit money following a trial at Woolwich Crown Court in March 2022. He was sentenced to five years and a half Friday, April 29.

His imprisonment follows a lengthy investigation by specialist detectives from the Serious Crime Branch of Kent and Essex, including the largest seizure of counterfeit money at face value in UK history following of a raid on an industrial unit in Beckenham, Kent, in 2019.

Support was also provided by the Bank of England and National Crime Agency (NCA) counterfeiting officers.

Three other members of the same criminal network to which Ainsworth belonged were sentenced to a combined total of 22½ years in January 2021, after admitting their involvement in the plot.

Four other men were found not guilty after standing trial alongside Ainsworth.

Detectives were able to prove that Ainsworth had strong financial and personal ties to those who had previously admitted involvement in the plot. This included his presence at meetings the band held in public and his presence at Beckenham’s print shop.

An investigation into the group’s activities began in January 2019. This was around the same time that the Bank of England identified a new counterfeit paper £20 note entering circulation, which appeared to have been produced at the using printing equipment “that would normally be associated with a company that produces large volumes of magazines or flyers”.

Kent Police said Print week last year that a Heidelberg GT Platen was used to foil the notes, while the printing machine at the site of the police raid, which was allegedly used to print the notes themselves, was a Heidelberg Speedmaster.

Inquiries established that parts and materials associated with the production of counterfeit money on a commercial scale had been ordered and linked to a printing press belonging to one of the conspirators at Kent House Lane, Beckenham.

After several months of investigation into those suspected of being involved, including the analysis of mobile phones, a search warrant was issued to the press on May 4, 2019.

Inside, officers found two men surrounded by printing equipment and large piles of counterfeit £20 notes, which were later confirmed to have a total face value of £5.25million.

A pallet of counterfeit money discovered in Beckenham. Image: Kent Police

A subsequent search for an address in Longfield led to the discovery of a list of names with numbers next to them which totaled 5.25 million – the same value as the counterfeit notes. Names on the list included those that belonged to or were nicknames of people suspected of being involved in the plot, including Ainsworth.

In the months that followed, other large quantities of counterfeit notes they allegedly printed continued to be discovered.

On October 9, 2019, a dog walker found around £5million worth of fake banknotes thrown away at the Belvedere. A further £200,940 was found strewn along the railway line between Farningham and Longfield on January 15, 2020, with the Bank of England having already identified and removed around £1.8million from general circulation.

The printed £20 notes were all in the old paper style, as happened before the Bank of England’s new polymer £20 note came into circulation in February 2020.

Deputy Chief Constable Andrew Pritchard, head of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Branch, said: ‘Andrew Ainsworth’s conviction marks the culmination of a complex investigation in which nothing has been spared to suppress an organized crime group that has gone to great lengths to literally create their own wealth.

“Counterfeiting is not a victimless act as it directly funds other types of serious organized crime and harms the UK economy by creating losses for businesses which ultimately affects the cost of the things we buy. It also has a direct impact on those who receive counterfeit notes in exchange for goods or services, and who are unable to pass on what are essentially worthless pieces of paper.

He added: ‘The print shop our officers raided in Beckenham was believed to be producing magazines, leaflets and leaflets, but instead contained the largest amount of counterfeit money ever discovered in the UK. It was a professionally run operation, but those involved were naive if they thought they could proceed undetected.

“Kent Police remain committed to working with partners including the NCA and the Bank of England to ensure those who print counterfeit money are brought to justice, sending a clear message to others that this type of offense is not tolerated.”

One of the members of the same criminal network to which Ainsworth belonged and who has already been convicted was Nick Winter of Elmers End Road, Beckenham, who was jailed for six years on December 21, 2020.

Companies House lists a disqualification by court order on 21 December 2020 for Nicholas Winter, born in January 1962, for conduct while acting for WDP Ronco, under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 (Section 2 ). His disqualification began on January 11, 2021 and runs until January 10, 2027.

On Companies House filings for WDP Ronco, Nick Eliott Winter, born in January 1962, is listed as one of the directors of the printing works who, according to the London Gazette, had traded from the Gardner Industrial Estate in Kent House Lane , Beckenham until it went into liquidation in October 2019.

Another company, We Do, has listed a Nicholas Elliot Winter, born in January 1963, as a director. Dissolved in October 2020 by voluntary delisting, the company’s former name was Daleholm, whose records show the same Nick Eliott Winter listed for WDP Ronco as a former director who resigned in 2010.

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