Dominic Littlewood follows the UK Border Agency teams as they reveal illegal immigrants using fake documents to get work in restaurants in Hampshire. Plus fake designer goods.
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Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems.
Welcome to Fake Britain.
Police! Police officer, stand where you are!
You're under arrest.
In this series, I'm going to be investigating
the world of the criminals who make their money at your expense,
and I'm going to show you how not to get ripped off.
-Who's in charge?
-Put your knives down.
We follow the UK Border Agency as they track down the fakers
hidden in Britain's workforce.
He's told me he entered the United Kingdom by lorry.
The bottle of wine that left a nasty taste in the mouth.
It was bought in Tesco... and it's a fake.
Heartbreak for young ballet dancers -
how a fraudster left their dreams in tatters.
There were children as young as three years old involved in this.
This man is a target for the police, the Border Agency
and counter fraud squad from the local authority.
He's a suspected fraudster, who they believe has used fake ID
to claim tens of thousands in benefits he's not entitled to.
We are looking at closer to £50,000 of housing, council tax
and benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions.
The man's ID says his name is Mehdi Zerga,
but the council's fraud team think that's a fake French identity
he's using so he can claim benefits.
The team know where he lives,
and early in the morning they are on their way to arrest him for fraud.
Can you open the door, please?
The police are in, but there's a whole family inside.
The suspect has been handcuffed.
Police and the council team are confident this is the man in the ID.
What they need to find now are any identity documents linking him
to the name on the fake claims - Mehdi Zerga.
Two for the children.
So far, all they can find are what seem to be genuine documents
for him, his wife and their children.
I'm a British citizen.
-You've got a British passport, or a travel document?
-No, I've got a British passport.
But finally, they've found suspect bank documents in the name
they've been looking for.
Mr Mehdi Zerga... do you know who he is?
Basically, that man is not here at the moment.
He lives in France. He used to live here for ages, and he went.
All right. Do you open his mail for him?
Yeah, because sometimes he said to me,
"If there is any letter, pay it for me."
Because I'm paying his rent.
He comes maybe once a month or two months to take his rent.
I've got a letter from the Halifax.
That's his credit card.
I used to do like a payment for him.
That's his credit card?
They don't believe him.
They think he opened the letter because it was addressed
to the fake name he's been using to claim £50,000 in benefits.
We're going to seize these documents.
The team believe they have got the fraudster.
They've found the suspect at the address the benefits were claimed from,
and found bank documents in the name of the fake claimant.
And they were right.
The man later admitted setting up a fake identity in the name
Mehdi Zerga and conning £50,000.
He was sentenced to a year's jail
and all payments to him were stopped, saving thousands of pounds.
We're very happy with the results.
Every case we prosecute, we are saving a lot of money.
And what you've got to appreciate, we're stopping the benefit,
so we're stopping that fraud increasing.
Clacton-on-Sea, on the windy coast of Essex.
With its pier and beach,
it was once a top holiday destination for tens of thousands.
It's perhaps the last place you'd think of for fake wine.
Daniel McGowan likes his wine and knows a bit about it.
He went into his local Tesco in Clacton
and bought a couple of bottles of the classy French wine Pouilly-Fuisse.
But when he got it home and drank it, he was in for a surprise.
I opened it up expecting it to be a dry French wine.
I'm no expert,
but I can tell a decent French dry wine to a cheap and sweet wine.
Daniel was convinced that what was on the label was not the wine
in the bottle.
Purchasing it from Tesco,
couldn't have thought that a counterfeit wine could have been sold.
Next day he took the bottle back to the supermarket to complain...
he was offered a refund.
and I just really asked for someone from Tesco to speak to me,
because I felt that, obviously, that wasn't right,
Tesco really shouldn't be...
Someone needed to explain the reasons why what was in the bottle
wasn't what it was actually supposed to be.
I received a letter from Tesco saying that it was nothing to do with them,
and it was in the hands of their wine distribution company.
I've had a conversation with the wine distribution company,
who reimbursed me with two bottles of the actual wine
that it should have been and a bottle of champagne.
But apart from that, there has been nothing more from Tesco
on this matter or anything else.
Tesco point out that this is the only time this has ever happened
in one of their stores.
But two questions remain...
just what was in the bottle, and how did it get there?
Daniel's brought it along to a top wine expert in London
for some answers.
I thought we'd start off by tasting something I know to be real
And we'll see what it's like.
This is classic southern Burgundian wine.
It's a chardonnay, it's 100%, so we should be getting some really
nice aromas of things like minerals from the soil.
Let's have a taste.
Can you feel that creaminess coming from the oak contact?
-But there's that lovely sort of fresh, mineral note.
That's what Pouilly-Fuisse is all about.
Let's have a look at your bottle now.
I can tell straight away that this is a wrong 'un.
That's the only way to describe it. Look at the shape of the bottle.
Completely different shape.
And when you're in the know, Burgundy comes in that shape bottle,
other wines come in this shaped bottle.
Louis Jadot I know never use screw caps.
And this label, it's the wrong texture,
the label is just cheap and nasty.
It should be a lot better than that.
And, well, it looks pure filth...
let's see what it tastes like! Have a try.
You can see, it smells completely different.
A, there's hardly any nose on that...
Mmm. Mmm! Mmm! And it's sweet.
It's probably German, and it's probably not very good German.
So it's German, cheap and definitely not Pouilly-Fuisse.
But how did it get on Tesco's shelves?
Tom thinks the distributors were conned by the fakers.
It's the most common fraud around at the moment -
people buy a batch of really cheap wine,
get some labels printed off, stick it on, and then just try and sneak
it into the supply chain of a big company, like they've tried here.
Having said that, again,
the people who've bought it probably didn't taste this wine.
The way it normally works, from what I can work out, is that
if you ask for samples of wine, you get the genuine article,
but the fake stuff then gets slipped into the supply chain,
and hopefully gets lost in there.
So it's really hard to trace it back.
For Daniel, it's a relief to have the experts agree
that his suspicions were correct.
It's the reason why I wrote in and went to see Tesco.
It's proved it's true.
Tesco believe that only nine bottles of the fake wine were ever in their stores,
but Tom thinks there's a reason why we don't hear more about wine frauds.
An awful lot of times I think people just taste it and they go,
"Well, I don't like that wine, throw it away."
Even if it's at the top end,
they very rarely think they've been defrauded, they just think they don't like the wine.
Information has been received that there are immigration
offenders working illegally at the premises.
In Hampshire, an enforcement team from the UK Border Agency
are preparing for an operation.
They suspect that a restaurant on their patch is employing
fake workers who have no right to take up jobs here.
All put down what you're doing, put any knives down.
Some estimates say that almost a million people are in this country illegally,
and many of them are working.
That's why the UK Border Agency carry out thousands of operations
like this in a year,
looking for people who falsely claim to have the right to work here.
How many of these people live upstairs?
No-one inside is a UK national,
but many could have leave to remain, working visas or be students.
And one man has provided a straightforward answer on how he came to be here.
He's told me he entered the United Kingdom by lorry.
Can you ask him when he entered by lorry,
and is he in contact with the Home Office?
HE SPEAKS FOREIGN LANGUAGE
Entered by lorry in 1998.
He then made an application under the Human Rights Act in 2006,
but he says he hasn't heard anything else.
He says he hasn't been given any reporting restrictions,
but I take it he's probably absconded.
Staff will investigate his claim that he made a human rights application,
but he's been here for 12 years.
You've been here since 1998, and you don't speak any English?
He came here first of all on holiday.
I think you understand what I'm saying a little bit better
than you're letting on.
A check on his records revealed he had no right to live or work here, and he's been arrested.
What's his present status in the UK? That's what I'm trying to establish.
Language barriers often exist on operations like this,
but the team have got interpreters on the end of a phone line.
I will get the interpreter to explain to you in a second...
This man has told officers that he has the right to work here
in the UK, but a check on their database is revealing a different story.
Information I have says he's got no visa to be a domestic worker.
Can you just check that he understands the difference
between a working holiday maker and a domestic worker?
His visa is very specific and doesn't allow him to work in restaurants.
Go back to work, I'm afraid!
And although the legitimate staff have now been allowed to start
cooking, customers might still have a long wait for food.
The UK Border Agency checks have also revealed that this waiter is
an overstayer who should have left the UK some time ago.
I'm just going to hold you quietly.
I'll be very gentle.
As a result of the operation,
three workers at the restaurant are now under arrest.
One of them's an overstayer,
one of them's working in breach of his conditions,
and one of them came into the country illegally.
The middle chap is a worker in breach.
He came into the country on a visa which meant he was working
as a domestic worker.
He's not allowed to work in a restaurant,
he's only allowed to do a specific job role, and he's not doing that.
These three were all cheating the system to work here, and many believe
this has a detrimental effect on the rest of the working population.
Illegals often work for less money, which drives down wages
in the poorly paid jobs that legal immigrants often end up doing.
And for having three fake workers,
the restaurateur was fined a total of £15,000.
This is Rebecca Towndrow practising some of the ballet movements
she and her sister learned in their training
at the Dance Lines Academy in Croydon.
Rebecca hasn't danced in front of anybody
since she left the dance academy.
Something that happened there really knocked the confidence out of her.
Rebecca and her sister Kristina
were both learning to dance at the academy,
run by qualified dance teacher Amanda Brugnoli-Lines.
I enjoyed it, because you met new people,
I learnt loads more things, and you get close to the teacher
when you keep on going years and years and things like that.
The girls loved going, getting dressed up, having their hair done.
And it was all very, very exciting for them.
And for Lynne's elder daughter, Kristina,
dancing was more than just a hobby.
It was something that I really enjoyed doing,
and at that stage, I did want to follow on
and go to the Brit School and actually be the prima ballerina!
Both the girls regularly sat exams set by the Royal Academy of Dance.
Take your places at the bar, please.
Their marks would be sent back to them via their dance tutor.
The syllabus sets criteria which candidates have to meet,
and obviously the requirements get progressively more difficult
as you go up the grades.
I wanted to get the grades, you always wanted to get that
grade A or distinction, you didn't want to get anything less...
just wanted to be the best.
And the grades she was getting seemed to suggest the hard work was paying off.
Thanks to the teaching of their instructor,
Amanda Brugnoli-Lines, the girls were getting great grades.
They all really wanted to do the best for themselves and for Miss Amanda.
But something was very wrong at the academy
where the girls had been taught.
Rumours had begun to circulate that there was a problem with the exam certificates,
and their tutor had been arrested.
I just bumped into somebody in Sainsbury's, of all places,
and she asked me if I had had the certificate checked.
And the next thing I got a phone call from the police asking
if they could come to see me and examine the certificates.
And I was just really shocked!
The rumour was that their dance teacher had committed such
a major fraud that it affected almost all her students.
It seemed she had been faking the results of the children's
dancing exams and counterfeiting their certificates.
Later on, we'll find out how and why she did it.
Just a few miles away from Marble Arch in central London
is the district of Queensway.
Today, Westminster Trading Standards team are following up reports
from a private investigator that a shop here is selling top-notch
designer gear, but all of it is fake.
They're used to seeing a few fake goods on sale,
but a whole shopful would be remarkable.
Watches, wallets and bags...
The man on the left is the private investigator that called them in.
He works on behalf of many of the designer labels whose goods
have been counterfeited, and he's just made a test purchase
at the suspect's shop and passed it to officer Frank King.
The test purchaser on our behalf has asked for a Louis Vuitton item,
and it's been supplied for the money in a box
bearing the trade name Gucci,
which leads us to believe that there must be Gucci items there as well.
Trading Standards now have all the evidence they need to raid the shop.
Who's in charge? I'm from Westminster City Council, Trading Standards.
Looks like the private investigator was spot-on.
This place is an emporium of the nation's most popular designer brands, but how many are fake?
This is one of the items that were purchased earlier
by the brand owner, Gucci, who confirmed that it was counterfeit.
In addition to that, they're selling it for £40.
To buyers, this all looks like bargain price designer gear,
but they don't realise they are actually overpaying for fakes.
A normal person coming into a shop set out such as this,
they think the items up for sale are genuine.
The price, the pure presentation,
leads anybody to believe that they are buying a genuine item.
The reports were that every last piece of clothing
and all the handbags and belts are expensive fakes,
and the team want a good nose around to check that's true.
The jewellery on sale seems to be authentic, but after examining
all the clothes and bags, it seems this really is a shop full of fakes.
The store owner isn't on the premises,
but has had a phone call from Trading Standards to give her some bad news.
Her entire stock is being seized.
Any bargain hunters who'd been shopping at this store will
probably feel they'd been ripped off. But with all the stock seized,
it's definitely the store owner who's lost out today.
A very successful operation, bearing in mind the way in which this shop
has displayed its goods, and the price being offered for the items.
72 bags of evidence...
approximate value is £10,000, we estimate, today.
This country is losing a billion pounds a year to benefit fraud,
and we've been following some of the people responsible
for tracking down the fraudsters.
In Hillingdon, west London, the local council benefit fraud team
are about to raid another benefit fraudster.
They believe he's used false documents
to set up an identity in the name of Jean Singlan,
purely to cheat the system.
He's had £20,000 in housing and other benefits.
But now it's time to wake him up.
There are two men inside, but not who they're looking for,
but there's post addressed to the suspect fraudster,
and more of his letters lying around the flat.
-What's the landlord's name?
-What's his first name?
-I don't know, I know his name is Singlan.
Because there's post in this address for Mr Singlan.
Who's opened the post?
I don't know, because he's got the keys as well.
-Why doesn't he take the bank statements with him?
-I don't know.
Straightaway, the men have revealed that the target man
supposedly owns this flat, but is renting it out to them,
thus invalidating any housing benefit claim.
-Who does this card belong to?
-One of my friends.
-What's his name?
-Ali... I don't know.
Strange to have a friend trust you enough
to look after his credit card, but you don't know his surname.
And that's not the only thing that doesn't add up.
The man has told officers he doesn't have a key for his own flat.
It doesn't sound right to me, you've been here for a year
and you don't have a key.
Your friend has the key but you don't have a key.
-Yeah, but I can't make...
-You can cut another key very easily.
-But I can't.
-What do you do when he's not here?
All the time, I call him.
-Do you wait outside to get into the house?
-Yeah, that's it.
This investigator can't be shown on television,
but she's not convinced by their story.
Their stories do not add up in any way. They just don't add up.
For him not to have a key to the address, yet be living here...
With such suspicious circumstances,
the team decide to search the flat thoroughly.
There are no antiques in the attic, but there's something
that reveals a lot about this man's history.
-Have you been to Italy?
-No, I didn't.
-You've never been to Italy?
-So, why have you got an Italian ID card?
-I don't have, man.
-Who's Fateh Hareri...?
-No, I didn't.
-That's you, isn't it?
-Yes, it's my picture.
-It's your picture.
-You said you're Fateh.
-Just show me. No, no, just show me.
-I'm telling you.
-No, it's not my one, man.
You said it's your picture.
Yes, it's my picture, but it's not my one.
Why would someone have your picture in their card -
it's useless, isn't it? Give me your names.
That's definitely you.
Although the suspect fake document isn't in the target name of Singlan,
this man is still being arrested for fraud.
I'm going to arrest you for possessing a false identification.
Next, the team need to have the document analysed by specialists
at the National Document Fraud Unit.
This Italian ID document, which we think is a false document,
was found at an address where we went to interrogate
an arrest warrant with the police.
We now need to have this document examined by yourselves,
to let us know if it is false.
-Yep, that's fine.
It is inkjet-printed, quite a basic printing method.
It results in lots of random dots of ink.
All of this should be solid line print, litho printed,
rather than inkjet-printed.
This dark area of print should be Intaglio print,
like a raised ink on the surface.
But I can run my finger across it,
and you can't feel any raised ink on there at all.
After several tests, the expert is ready to give her final verdict.
I can tell you it is counterfeit. It's completely made up.
That means he can put whatever identity on here that he wants.
I can produce a statement for you so you can prosecute this person.
As a result of Hillingdon Council's operation,
this man was sentenced to three months in jail
for possession of a fake identity document.
As an Algerian, he had no right to stay or work in the UK,
but had used the fake ID to get a job nearby.
The other man in the flat was later found
to have used a fake French passport
to get a job with the same employer as his friend.
After the raid, he disappeared.
The original target of the raid,
a man using a fake identity in the name of Singlan
to make a benefits claim, was not found.
But the fake claim has been stopped.
Up like a rocket. That was better.
Young children across Britain are as eager as ever
to become the performing stars of tomorrow.
And sisters Kristina and Rebecca Towndrow
dreamt of becoming ballerinas.
They studied at the Dancing Lines Academy in Croydon, Surrey,
and were passing their ballet exams with excellent grades.
When I got my certificate, I went into school and showed my teacher
and the head teacher, and then they said that I did very well.
But the family had heard that their ballet teacher,
Amanda Brugnoli-Lines, had been arrested.
Her pupils were about to find out
they weren't the brilliant young dancers
their exam results suggested.
And even the experienced detectives at Surrey police
had never seen anything like it.
We suspected that Amanda was basically forging
the results of dance certificates.
She would enter pupils into examinations,
they would achieve a Grade C or maybe a Grade D,
and she would increase those grades to a B or an A,
to give the child a better result in the examination.
The children at the dance school
thought they were flying through their exams,
but in truth, their teacher was faking their results.
After each exam, the certificates with the grades
were sent out to Amanda Brugnoli-Lines.
She replaced them with fake ones she made herself,
with much higher grades.
Where Kristina and Rebecca thought they were getting distinctions,
their real grades had only been passes.
I couldn't imagine her doing anything like that at all.
I was actually quite shocked, more than anything, when I found out.
And with a full roster of pupils dancing at the academy,
it was in their instructor's interest that they got good marks
and kept paying for classes.
If the marks their candidates receive
are higher than they would otherwise be,
this can increase their standing in the community,
it can help their business,
and they see it I think in many cases as a personal reflection
of their standards as a teacher.
And when the fraud was finally discovered,
the police were left with the task
of shattering all the young ballerinas' dreams.
We spoke to all the students.
Delivering that news was particularly difficult.
There were children as young as three years old involved in this,
and particularly children of a vulnerable disposition,
they were told they were much better than they actually were,
and the personal effect,
the human effect on that, is quite devastating.
Some of the students had actually used the certificates,
or the grades contained within the certificates,
to support university applications.
Others, it was something they were making life decisions on -
"Am I good enough perhaps to take a career in dance?"
And some thought they were, rather incorrectly.
For the girls, the fraud was a massive shock.
The children were really let down,
because they put so much into it, they put so much work into it,
and effort, to be proud of themselves
and to make the teacher proud of them.
These are some of the certificates the girls received after exams.
They thought they had done so well,
but all of these had been doctored by Amanda Brugnoli-Lines.
If they had known that they weren't getting the grades
that would let them become professional dancers,
they would have stopped having lessons.
If I hadn't have got the good grades that I did
and I was repeatedly getting lower grades,
like I had actually got, I wouldn't have carried on lessons,
I would have packed it in then. And not carried on.
And if the girls had stopped dancing,
it would have saved their mum a lot of money.
You're looking at £10,000, you've got to be,
including the extra coaching for exams,
paying for the exams, the new uniform for exams.
I really hate to think what the exact sum would be.
Amanda Brugnoli-Lines was sentenced to two years imprisonment for fraud.
She didn't help herself by telling police
that she was the victim of a harassment campaign,
and others at the school were responsible for the fraud.
Her claim backfired when police proved
that many of the threatening texts she had claimed to have received
were sent from a phone she owned.
And for young pupils like Rebecca,
who thought they might be the dancing stars of tomorrow,
the shock and betrayal was enough to put them right off dancing lessons.
I really trusted my teacher,
I thought I could let my hopes on her, and she's done this to me.
That was the thing that hurt me more,
the fact that she'd been hurt.
And although this is the first time she's danced for a while,
getting up and having a go again
has left Rebecca in a more positive frame of mind about the future.
I'd like to go again and start doing ballet again
and try and get my hopes back up again.
That's all from Fake Britain today. Bye for now.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media
E-mail [email protected]
We follow the UK Border Agency teams as they reveal illegal immigrants using fake documents to get work in restaurants in Hampshire. And we see them working with police and a local authority counter fraud team to arrest a fake benefits claimant.
We reveal the extraordinary story of how fake wine was sold in a leading supermarket - and find out what was really in the bottle. We meet the two sisters who were victims of the fake ballet grades - their teacher was forging the certificates of dozens of her pupils. We follow trading standards officers as they discover the shop near London's West End stuffed full of fake designer goods and see how they also tackle the street traders openly selling fakes from market stalls.
And we go out with a local authority blue badge enforcement unit as they confront the people faking their entitlement to use the badges issued to road users with disabilities.