In the town of Brilon in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, the Federal Criminal Police Office raided a 20-year-old who had ordered counterfeit money on the darknet. To the Federal Criminal Police Office’s (BKA) surprise, they could not find any counterfeit banknotes on the 20-year-old’s property, despite their own intelligence that indicated otherwise. Instead, the BKA found a cache of drugs “in no small amount.” The investigation then shifted; instead of what would have been a relatively standard counterfeit money arrest, the BKA began investigating the young Briloner for drug trafficking.
The indictment still accused him of ordering counterfeit Euro notes, however. From September until the 20-year-old’s early November arrest, the BKA had raided 11 different apartments throughout the federal states. The operation, according to the most recent release, resulted in the search of 40 suspects and the confiscation of 1,400 fake 50-euro banknotes.
Austrian authorities, in the early months of 2017, set the investigation in motion during an investigation of their own. They busted a counterfeiting ring that sold their fake notes on the darknet. The group of counterfeiters had both produced and sold the fake banknotes, not unlike the infamous Napoli Group. Austrian law enforcement then began working with German authorities on the second stage of the investigation. The counterfeit Euro vendors, along with a significant number of lazy or careless darknet drug vendors, had kept transaction records for buyers of their counterfeit notes.
The case then unfolded almost identical to any other darknet drug case where the vendor kept a list of his or her customers and authorities used that list to track down buyers even years later. Shiny Flakes kept a color-coded list of orders that included information on the buyer, the address, and the order details. German police raided Flakes two years ago, but his color-coded list that ensured customer jail time lived on, contributing to arrests as recent as August 2017. Alphabay fentanyl vendor PeterTheGreat kept a list that recently led to the arrest of the “father and son vendor duo” in the United States. There is no shortage of evidence to demonstrate the damage caused by simple logbooks and spreadsheets.
Although the BKA raided the majority of the fake Euro buyers in September, some suspects, including the 20-year-old from Brilon, took longer to track down. Eventually investigators discovered that DHL had delivered the notes and with tracking information from DHL, the BKA easily discovered where the man lived.
Prosecutor Thomas Poggel said that the BKA had found at least one kilogram of marijuana, an unspecified number of ecstasy pills, and 800 grams of amphetamine. The 20-year-old now faces charges connected to large-scale narcotics trade, possession of illegal substances, and receiving counterfeit money. Law enforcement officers knew he had ordered and received the money, they simply had no idea how the money had disappeared. Poggel added that German authorities hope to work with their Austrian partners to track down the 20-year-old’s buyers. This case, the prosecutor said, will require a “very time-consuming investigation.”