Dominic Littlewood reveals how counterfeit euros are causing innocent holidaymakers to be arrested for having fake currency. Plus the distressing story of fake pet cremations.
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Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems.
Welcome to Fake Britain.
-Police officers. Stay where you are!
You're under arrest.
In this series, I'll be investigating
the world of the criminals who make
their money at your expense -
and I'm going to be showing YOU how NOT to get ripped off.
How fake euros can get innocent holidaymakers banged up abroad.
I was in bits, to be honest. I was crying, you know what I mean?
I was petrified. I was in a foreign jail. I didn't know nothing.
And the heartbreak caused to animal lovers by the fake pet cremations.
I asked if I could see him, but they said, "No, you cannot.
"We won't let you see him, because of the state he's in."
Apparently, he was covered in flies and maggots.
If you're going on holiday to Europe,
then the chances are, you'll be needing some of these - euros.
We exchange our pounds for millions of these each year.
Now, these ones are real.
But if the euros you get are fake -
and trust me, there are loads of them out there -
then you could be in very big trouble.
This is a police raid on a counterfeiting ring in Italy,
where the officers burst into a criminal operation producing millions of fake euros.
The production is sophisticated and they are using hi-tech equipment
to recreate as many of the security features as possible.
This could affect you, as millions of fakes are out there - and they could be in your pocket.
Alan Williams and his family go skiing every year
and look forward to their relaxing holiday away together.
we, as a family,
decided to go to Kitzbuhel in Austria. I went to Thomas Cook
in Cheltenham and booked a package holiday.
When I went to pick up the tickets,
I actually bought £2,000 worth of euros from Thomas Cook.
I stuck them back in my bag and took them to Austria with me.
But, having arrived in Kitzbuhel, and keen to get on the slopes as soon as possible,
Alan bought the lift passes and things started to go wrong.
When I went to buy the lift passes and she asked me for the 1,300 euros,
I opened the plastic wallet which Thomas Cook had given me
and took out the wodge of notes.
The girl started feeding them through a small scanning machine,
and it bleeped and rejected one of the notes. It was clear there was a problem with it.
In the meantime, I gave her a replacement note.
But attempting to pass a fake euro meant he was guilty of a crime.
And then, suddenly, a man appeared next to us and introduced himself as the police.
He said, "I'd like you to come to the police station."
It was clear to me that, if I didn't go voluntarily, he would arrest me and take me.
The police escorted them back to their hotel,
where they searched their room and asked them to produce identification.
He turned it pretty well upside down. He opened the Christmas presents and cards, looking for more money.
And then in the police station, I explained where I got the money.
I showed him the receipt from Thomas Cook. He examined all the other money and also the forged note.
Alan was held in the police interview room for five hours
and the seriousness of the situation began to dawn on him.
I was guilty of being in possession of a counterfeit note.
Merely being in possession is viewed as a serious crime on the Continent,
and I'd have no option but to plead guilty to that if I was charged.
But, of course, I've also attempted to buy a lift pass with a counterfeit note,
which, again, is a serious crime.
And, really, I felt the only thing to do was to try and assist him as much as possible
and hope he'd decide it's not worth pursuing any further.
Because if they decide to pursue the issue, then I'd have no choice but to plead guilty.
But there have been several cases of Brits abroad held by police for having fake euros.
With 17 nations using the euro,
it's the second most used currency in the world,
so it's an attractive target for the counterfeiters.
Here in Frankfurt,
at the headquarters of the European Central Bank,
it's their job to coordinate all the information on all the forgeries found right across Europe.
Every time a new counterfeit is identified,
a sample is sent to us as soon as possible.
What I have on screen at the moment is a comparison of a genuine 50,
and the counterfeit.
What is interesting, perhaps, is the way in which
the counterfeiter has attacked the various security features.
The most looked-at security feature,
at least from a public perspective, is undoubtedly the hologram.
The hologram shows two different pictures as it moves in the light,
so it's difficult to forge.
You can see that clearly on the left.
But this is not the case with the fake on the right.
One other thing we could draw attention to here is the watermark.
You can see that, with the counterfeit,
the watermark is, in fact, printed, whereas...
if we look in the watermark area on the genuine,
it's essentially invisible.
The third main giveaway is how the note actually feels.
These lines here - as you can see, they're raised and, consequently,
when we run our nail across the finished entity, we feel -
or we rather hear - a kind of washboard effect.
I'm not going to feel that,
or hear it, with this note because it's a counterfeit.
This particular counterfeit note was made in the UK.
The quality of the fake notes varies, but 75% of them are made on professional printers.
He'll make something as good as he feels it necessary,
in order to be accepted by the ultimate victim.
The police accepted Alan's story, as he had the receipt from Thomas Cook
to prove he had changed the money in good faith.
Thomas Cook refunded the note, as a gesture of goodwill,
but do not accept that the counterfeit came from them.
I just felt I was an unfortunate victim of a note that had slipped through the system.
But actually, I was being treated under the Austrian legal system
as though I was a major currency swindler.
Alan got off lightly.
But later, we'll find out what happened to Carl Redden,
who wasn't so lucky.
I was actually locked up with life prisoners -
rapists, drug dealers. You name it, they're in there.
Every year, there are between 40,000 and 80,000 DNA tests done in the UK
to determine the paternity of a child.
Stuart Richards works for the Child Support Agency,
who are there to ensure that the parent caring for the child
gets financial support from the other parent.
Stuart leads one of the CSA's investigation teams.
Our role is primarily ensuring we make the correct calculation
of maintenance to support the child,
and then ensure the money flows to that child.
It's a very important role, in terms of ensuring that parents have the opportunity and wherewithal
to support their children through their growing life.
But not everyone is happy to accept their responsibilities.
We investigate any allegations where there are fraudulent attempts by people
to avoid paying their maintenance.
That type of fraud may be that they attempt to suppress their income levels,
or they may undertake a DNA fraud,
to try to show they're not the parent of a child they are.
This type of fraud is not the norm, but it's more common than you might think.
In the last two years, there have been seven convictions in the UK,
with 32 cases ongoing.
What people will do
is they're provided the opportunity to take a DNA test,
to prove unequivocally whether they are the father of the child or not.
The fraud people will undertake, in regard to that,
they'll get somebody else to go and take the test.
So they will try and get another person - different DNA -
and they believe that'll be the end of the matter.
But it's not that simple to defraud the system.
This young mother, whose identity we have to protect,
fell pregnant by her boyfriend, who wasn't so pleased by the news.
I told him I was pregnant and his response to me was,
"Well, we can carry on seeing each other. Just get rid of...
Whereas my response was, I wasn't going to get rid of the baby.
-SHE CLEARS HER THROAT
-So then I was just told that he was...not going to be around.
There was absolutely no contact at all.
Once he decided to go his way, that was it.
She had a baby girl and sent the father a photo of his daughter,
in case he ever wanted to get in touch.
But I still got no reply, no answer to anything,
so I just left it, then.
But five months down the line, it all sort of unravelled,
cos I got an e-mail from his wife.
Shocked that he was married, things started to make sense.
And it was his wife who told her to contact the Child Support Agency.
They demanded that he contribute financially
to the upbringing of his child,
but he denied that he was the father.
Some people do contest they are the father
and, rightly, there is a process in place to enable them to challenge it.
When that happens, we facilitate them to provide a DNA sample,
which will prove whether they're the father or not.
A DNA sample was taken from the mother, daughter and man in question,
and sent off to be tested.
I was expecting it to come back that obviously,
I'm her mother and he's her father.
There was no doubt in my mind of who the father was
so, to me, it was like a straightforward test.
DNA is the body's genetic blueprint.
Testing DNA can conclusively prove whether a man is the true father of a child.
Everybody's DNA is unique.
We can get a DNA sample by taking a simple mouth swab
from the inside of somebody's mouth. Having extracted that DNA
from the mother, the child and the alleged father,
we can go through and carry out a number of different tests that identifies markers in the DNA.
These genetic markers, because they're inherited
half from the mother, half from the father,
if you look at the DNA pattern of the child,
you can see every single marker in there.
If it isn't from the mother, it must come from the man we're testing,
if he is the father of the child.
This allows us to provide a conclusive analysis of paternity.
I received the DNA results through the post and when I opened them,
it said that he wasn't the father.
I phoned the CSA, like, pretty much straightaway.
And I kind of... I explained to them that, you know,
I'd received the results and that I wasn't happy,
because I know that he was the father, but it's saying that he's not.
She was told that DNA testing provides definitive proof
as to the identity of the father.
But she was sure who the father was, so something wasn't adding up.
We use doctors to take samples so that at the appointment,
the doctor can confirm that the person from whom the sample's being taken is the right person.
We use photographic evidence
and we also collect signatures from people at the appointment.
We can be absolutely certain everything is accurate and correct.
So, if you can't escape from your DNA and who you are,
how is this fraud even possible?
All I got in response was that them tests are 99.999% certain.
I said, "Well, I'm not disputing your testing system,
"I'm disputing who took the test."
I knew he would have pulled some sort of stunt.
Whoever's gone is not my daughter's father.
She was absolutely categoric and emphatic that this man was the father
of the child involved here,
and clearly wanted to progress it.
When we heard her information, we sent an investigator to meet her,
and we showed her a photograph of the person who had taken the DNA test.
The mother in this instance was absolutely categoric -
that was not the man she had named as the father.
I explained, I've never seen him before in my life.
Didn't have a clue who he was. So I know he's not my daughter's father.
And they... Obviously, then, they turned round and said,
well...they would be opening a fraud...
My case would have to be transferred to the fraud side of things.
The person named on that application was not the person in the photo
and, by inference, clearly not the person who took the DNA test
that came back negative.
This is a very serious fraud, both emotionally and financially.
It could result in a parent knowingly cheating their own child
out of tens of thousands of pounds over the course of their childhood.
The impact on those people - it's not just about the money.
It's the emotional impact on the mother and child
when they go to these lengths -
particularly a fraudulent length - to show they're not the father.
For the mother and child in this case,
where they fraudulently attempted to show they are
not the father of a child, is an utterly despicable act.
We undertook an arrest of the man named as the father. He was questioned at that point.
What had actually happened was,
he'd asked somebody to go to the doctor in his place to take the test,
ensuring that the DNA result would come back negative.
Subsequently, he has been to court and been found guilty of offences under the Fraud Act.
He now has a criminal record and,
obviously, the maintenance he was due to pay,
we've secured that now.
But there was an arrears of maintenance that he had accrued.
He has gained nothing in doing this.
I just pity him, for him to sink so low
to be able to pull stunts like that.
Relieved that he's had to take responsibility at last,
she's never regretted her decision.
I can thank him for the best thing I've ever had,
and that's my little girl.
She's the best thing that ever happened to me.
I wouldn't be without her.
When a pet that has been loved and a constant companion
finally passes on it can hit some owners really hard.
They want the best for it, even after it's died.
As our investigation reveals, some pet owners have been fooled.
That dignified final farewell that they paid for and cherished turned out to be anything but.
It's the fake pet cremation scam.
When Bournville, Linda's older dog, died,
they paid for an individual cremation for him.
We expressed the wish to the vet
that we wanted him solely cremated,
and we wanted his ashes back,
to go with our other pet, who had died the previous year.
So we understand his body was collected the following day from the vet's by the crematorium.
We got the phone call the following week from the vet
to say they'd received Bournville's ashes back.
Me and my son went to collect his ashes.
Just when they thought they'd laid him to rest, the RSPCA called.
A man out walking one morning had come across the bodies
of four dogs dumped in a field, one of whom was Bournville.
First initial reaction was disbelief.
No, this couldn't happen.
This is not right.
Bournville died in my arms and we've got his ashes here.
We've got him here. And she described his markings and he was microchipped.
She said, "He's registered to you."
We went to identify the body and it was Bournville.
Obviously, because he'd been lying in the field
for perhaps a good week and a half,
he obviously wasn't a pretty sight.
He was a marvellous dog.
His character, his personality.
You couldn't get one better. You couldn't get one better.
That's what hurts, because he was a member of our family.
A member of our four dogs.
These were our children, as well.
To know that he was just dumped, as though he was rubbish,
is very heartbreaking.
But she wasn't alone.
Found dumped in the field along with Bournville was the body of Sam,
a black Labrador, whose owner Angie
had had him put to sleep at the vet's.
I assumed he was going to go to a crematorium
and that he was going to be cremated
and that his ashes would be scattered.
But she too had the news that the cremation she'd paid for had failed
to happen and Sam's body was just dumped in a field.
We just couldn't believe that we were being told this.
We just didn't understand how anyone could do anything like that.
I asked if I could see him,
but they said, "No.
"You cannot. We won't let you, because of the state he's in."
Apparently, he was covered in flies and maggots.
He was in a terrible state.
Both Sam and Bournville had been sent by the vet
to Peak Pet Cremations, to be cremated.
In reality, Emma Bent, who ran the company, had no cremation licence
and her incinerator had not worked for several years.
This resulted in around 3,000 pet owners
being conned by her fake cremations.
And it was big business.
The kiln in question was apparently found in total disrepair.
It was all rusted up and hadn't been used for a long time.
They've either been burned on bonfires
or dumped at various locations.
There's other evidence to say that she'd been disposing
of clinical waste on bonfires.
Now this clinical waste included syringes
that had still got
medication in the syringes
that were used to euthanise animals with.
Now, had a child got hold of that,
it doesn't bear thinking about.
Since then, Sam and Bournville have been cremated
under the high standards of the Association of Private Pet Cemeteries & Crematoria.
These are Bournville's genuine ashes
that we witnessed at Bournville's cremation.
We're just so pleased we know
we've got this as the real Bournville's ashes.
Emma Bent had been receiving these pets from the vet
and getting paid to cremate them,
but was instead just dumping their bodies in the local area.
She was charged with separate counts of fraud
by the Crown Prosecution Service,
the Environment Agency and Trading Standards, and was sentenced
to eight months in jail for fraud and having no licence.
We found it so hard that a business lady, a business woman,
can be so hard-hearted.
Everything was, to our way of thinking, very callous.
Whilst this is an extreme case,
it does highlight the discrepancies in the cremation services on offer.
Pet owners routinely aren't being given the cremation they believe they're paying for.
For a lot of people the perception is individual cremation equals their pet
being looked after akin to a human service.
Simply that's not the case in the majority of situations using
bigger companies that come round once a week.
There are a whole range of services on offer when your pet passes away,
with many claiming to cremate your pet individually.
But they differ widely in their meaning of "individual".
I'm part of an association that adheres to a strict code of practice
that defines what individual means.
I hope our definition is in keeping with what the general public
believes individual to mean,
which is one pet cremated,
whether they be a hamster or Great Dane, on their own
in an enclosed chamber, until the cremation is fully completed.
All their ashes are then removed and given back to the owner.
Some companies will do numbered tray cremations, where 10-15, possibly
more, pets are placed on trays then put into a chamber at the same time.
The other practice that does go on is effectively a communal creation.
And, literally, that is a scoop of ashes taken from that communal
cremation, which is put into a casket and given back to that owner.
Again, unfortunately, that is under the guise of individual cremation.
So it's important to know exactly which
cremation service your vet uses, to make an informed choice
about how to say goodbye to your pet.
Until something like this happens,
you don't ask the questions, because you don't feel you have to.
People need to go out there and find out for themselves what's what.
When the euro came into circulation in 2002, it was hailed as the most
counterfeit-proof currency ever to roll off the presses.
But they were wrong.
Carl Redden works at the fruit and veg wholesale markets in Birmingham.
He wanted to propose to his girlfriend on a romantic holiday
in Cyprus, but it didn't go to plan.
I proposed to her on the
Monday afternoon, just down by the poolside.
A few drinks flowing, everything was nice and I proposed to her that day.
They popped out to the local shops
and all romance came to an abrupt end.
We walked into the shop, got our bits and bobs, went to the counter,
paid with a 50-euro bank note.
The lady behind the till scanned it, passed it back, said it was fake.
I said, "Are you sure, love?
"Check it again. I don't know."
She's gone, "Yeah, it's fake. I'm going to have to phone the police."
I said, "OK, fair enough. I'll wait here.
I waited for maybe 15-20 minutes, police came,
asked me about the bank note.
"Yes, it's mine." Asked me where I got it from.
Which I got it from England, Birmingham, obviously, where I live.
My nan got them for me.
So then they arrested both of us,
took...put us into separate cars,
er...straight to the police station.
I didn't see the Suzanne then for...until we went to court,
three days after.
In court, the judge asked them if they had anything
to say in their defence.
So I said, "Look, you know, we haven't...
"we don't know about this euro note.
"Er...we've come here for a holiday, you know, we proposed yesterday.
"We're all-inclusive, so we didn't even need this money, you know.
"Please, can you help us?"
And the judge just said, "Well, we'll give you bail
"but we want 5,000 euros each, per person.
"And you're to stay in the country." Obviously, me and Suzanne
haven't got 5,000 euros each in our pockets to pay bail.
So she said, "Well, you'll go to prison until it's paid."
They had no idea how they'd got hold of fake euros
and only hours after getting engaged they'd swapped their honeymoon suite for jail cells.
People just haven't got 5,000 euros lying around,
do you know what I mean?
I don't think nobody has, do you know what you mean?
Not in my kind of lifestyle, anyway.
I haven't got no-one just to phone and get money straight there.
In the end, it took their families two whole weeks
to raise enough money to bail them out of prison.
And then Carl finally discovered how he'd got the fake euros.
He asked his nan to change his money for him
when she went to the Post Office, before he went on holiday.
But he didn't know that she'd been the victim of a con.
There was a man outside the Post Office, all suited and booted, selling euros.
He said to my nan, "Oh, all right, love?
"Commission's a bit high on the dollars, on the euros,
"blah, blah, blah." And Nan's like, "Ooh, yeah, love."
He said, "Well, I'll sell you some euros and I'll do a better
"commission than what the Post Office are doing." So...
yeah, well, Nan's just gone, "Yeah, great deal for me son,
"well, me grandson." And that was it.
Hearing this information, Carl was desperate to find proof of his innocence.
I was like, "Aw, Nan, you've got to try and do something.
"Do you have your receipt? Did you have anything?
"Is there a camera outside the Post Office that could trace,
"just trace something back to where you've got them from?"
And she went, "No, there was a man outside, well dressed, looked smart."
But she did go to the police here, West Midlands Police, Kings Heath,
put a statement in and the police said, "There's a lot of this happening."
With no evidence to prove his innocence,
Carl's ordeal was far from over.
He was ordered to stay in the country until the next court date,
which was adjourned for a further six months.
So in order to get them back home more quickly,
their lawyer suggested that he changed his plea.
We can get Carl to plead guilty, Suzanne gets off and Carl gets a fine
or a suspended sentence, or both together, worst-case scenario.
And all this can be over with and you can go back home, and that'll be it.
Little did he know that a fine was nowhere near the worst-case scenario,
as he learnt when his sentence was passed in court.
I was in the dock and the judge has called me,
he's saying in Greek so I didn't really understand.
The last word I heard was ten months.
So I'm... I've looked at my lawyer, because he's sat just there,
just to the right of me.
And he's putting his head down and I'm, you know,
I'm...I'm... I nearly fell over, you know,
I'll be totally honest with you. It was such a shock.
When he phoned up to say that he'd been sentenced ten months,
I thought he was having a laugh.
I thought he was on the plane home coming back.
But then he said, "No, I'm serious, I got ten months."
I just couldn't believe it.
The police have come and got me, I'm in handcuffs,
I'm in custody, that's it.
Carl was sentenced to ten months in Nicosia Prison in Cyprus,
all for possessing a fake 50-euro note, worth just £42.
Inside there...was horrendous, it was horrible.
It was dirty, it was smelly, there's...
You know, you're in a foreign place, no-one speaks English.
I was moved to, er... it was called the Lifers' Block.
And I was actually locked up with life prisoners.
Rapists, drug dealers, you name it, they're in there.
I was in bits. I was crying, you know what I mean, I was petrified.
I was in a foreign jail, I didn't know nothing.
People used to laugh about my case, they used to laugh at me
because of... You know, it was a 50-euro banknote,
you know, I got a ten-month sentence
and I was locked up with life prisoners.
After serving eight months of his sentence,
Carl was finally released to return home in handcuffs.
So you're walking through the airport,
you feel like a right criminal. People stare at you and, you know,
you feel victimised, you know what I mean?
You get people staring at you as if you're a big-time criminal.
You wouldn't think it would happen to you,
to get arrested for something you haven't done
and actually do prison for it.
Seeing that, I can honestly say I'm quite scared.
The first and most important thing to do is to get a local lawyer.
The fact is that the laws on these things vary for every country within Europe.
So you need a local lawyer who can advise you on how to answer
police questions and what to do. So that's the first and most important thing.
The second is, make contact with people -
the British Foreign Office, friends and family at home.
And the third thing, often we see cases where people are told
to sign things in a language they don't understand,
or they're asked questions when the police interviewer doesn't really speak English.
So, ask for an interpreter or a translation of documents.
Don't sign things in a language you don't understand.
That's all from Fake Britain today. Bye for now.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
We reveal how fraudsters are counterfeiting the Euro. And we show how innocent British holidaymakers are being arrested abroad for unwittingly having the fake currency - like Carl Redden from Birmingham who was sentenced to 10 months in a prison in Cyprus and found himself locked up with hardened criminals.
We reveal the distressing story of the fake pet cremations. Owners found the pets they had loved and thought had given dignified individual cremations to, were in fact dumped in fields. And the ashes of their pets, which they had treasured, turned out to be fake.
We meet the woman who helped expose the fake DNA paternity test - as the father of her daughter tried to con his way out of his responsibilities.