On December 8, Europol announced the takedown of a major counterfeiting ring. The Special Unit Currency Police and Tax Police Unit of the Guardia made the first arrest in Naples, Italy—where it all began. The announcement made by Europol explained the joint collaboration with various international agencies—but Europol partnered with Italian law enforcement in January 2015 and the investigation took nearly one year. ←-insert link to our article here.
After Europol made their announcement, unofficial news outlets released further details about the case. The international vending group known as the “NapoliGroup” soon became the obvious culprit. Pictures of the arrest surfaced and eventually, so did a video. NapoliGroup, according to Europol, “is considered to be one of the biggest vendors of counterfeit euro currency online.”
The group’s counterfeit euros spread across the globe and consequently law enforcement in Austria, France, Germany, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands aided Europol and Italian authorities catch the source of the counterfeit notes. A considerable number of darknet buyers used NapoliGroup as their vendor, repeatedly, and only rarely would someone post a negative review.
The vendor pseudonym became a mark of quality. News outlets called the NapoliGroup name a signature in and of itself; but also noted a signature stealth style utilized by the group. They would fit the fakes into books. One video depicted an officer opening a book to find a cut-out area with counterfeit notes stashed inside.
A local news outlet identified “the eight” mentioned in the Europol press release. Carmine Guerriero, a 30-year-old “technology genius” created the counterfeiting network. From his bedroom, one article writes, Guerriero accepted orders from the darknet marketplace accounts. According to a Grams search, the NapoliGroup sold on Agora, Dream, and Alphabay. The BKA spoke about the influence of the darknet, in combination with Italy, on counterfeit euros.
According to American Guerrilla’s “German Police: Counterfeit Euros Running Wild In Germany”
The BKA noted that most of the high quality fakes were produced in eastern and southern Europe, “mainly from Italy.” Since most of the notes in 2015 were uncovered at banks and cash in transit firms, the BKA concluded that the majority of individual users of cash do not recognize the fakes; especially since most everyday payments do not involve a detailed examination of the cash.
Guerriero planned to sell his work to eight countries—the same eight Europol mentioned in the press release. After he received an order, his mother, sister, and cousin took care of the rest. The Tax Police Unit of the Guardia arrested these four at Guerriero’s Castellammare residence. Several other members are under investigation, the press release noted. In total, although the press releases contain some inconsistencies, 16 suspects are being investigated. According to the most recent number from the Spanish Police, law enforcement arrested 28 people; 15 suspects lived in Spain; eight lived in Italy; another four lived in France; and only one lived in Portugal. Police seized 120,000 counterfeit euros as of December 8, 2016.
A few days after the news broke, a reader pointed us to information from 2014 that revealed information of interest. An Italian news website spoke of a massive investigation by the Police Command of forgery in Naples and Caserta. The so-called massive investigation resulted in the arrest of 56 suspects for a long list of charges: conspiracy; the counterfeiting of currency; spending counterfeit money; sending counterfeit money into circulation; and lastly the forgery of official stamps and other public counterfeit seals.
The combination of charges and locations seemed to imply that, perhaps, the group busted in 2014 was the NapoliGroup. The investigation left no room for implications, though; It was the NapoliGroup. The main prosecutor of the case laid everything out:
The ring was responsible for producing nearly 90% of the fake euros in circulation around the world. The band was part of the ‘Napoli Group’, which includes eleven syndicate organizations, each with their own specialization. The members were also in contact with members of organized crime in several European countries. They also gave counterfeiting lessons. The banknotes were spent in Europe and Africa. The Napoli Group also printed the €300 note and passed it off at banks in Germany. (Note: the €300 was never an official note. The Group made counterfeit versions of a bill that never existed and got away with it.)
And another statement from Colonel Ferace of the Forgery Police:
The “Napoli Group”, much feared by the ECB , was formed by eleven criminal associations, each of which specializes in one task: storage, transportation, and spending the notes. During the operation officers discovered a printing house in Arzano (Napoli) and a mint in Gallicano (Roma). The gang even dared to print a 300 euro note, cut that does not exist: bill then passed off in Germany.
The investigation into the NapoliGroup, according to the site, began in 2012. After following leads for two years, officers finally found concrete evidence that a counterfeiting ring existed. Police routinely bust counterfeiting operations in the area but usually the rings were part of the Camorra clan (clan camorristici). Police arrested 30 people in connection with the NapoliGroup and collected enough evidence proceed with the investigation. The investigating judge, Judge Dario Gallo issued interim orders: officials kept 29 suspects in custody and 27 under house arrest. The investigations were coordinated by the deputy prosecutor Filippo Beatrice and substitutes Giovanni Conzo (DDA) and Gerald Cozzolino (Prosecutor of Santa Maria Capua Vetere).