With Dominic Littlewood. A private investigator working with police tracks down one of the UK's largest hauls of fake gold and jewellery. Plus, a look at the London Assay Office.
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Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems.
Welcome to Fake Britain.
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.
Coming up, one of the largest ever fake-gold seizures in the country.
If that was genuine product,
you'd be looking at between £10 million to £20 million.
And we discover the hidden dangers of wearing fake jewellery...
This is the one that really worries me.
Three peaks of lead.
..and see how forgers use air cargo to get fake ID into the UK.
These are a number of Iraqi passports.
They're blank. There's no bio-data page.
And fake patients with fake symptoms -
meet the hospital-hopper
who's keeping doctors away from genuine patients.
He claimed to be a haemophiliac and have AIDS.
Take a look at this lovely silver bracelet.
It's a top brand name that a lot of people would recognise,
and it sells in the shops for about £480.
But if you bought this, even if it was at a bargain price,
you would have been wasting your money, because it's a fake.
And fake jewellery, gold and silver alike, is big business in the UK,
and the criminal gangs are making a lot of money from it,
while we pay good money for something potentially worthless.
We've been following the teams who've been tracking down the fakers
and revealing how they con their customers.
This is a team of police and Trading Standards officers
in west London. They're on the trail of a man
they think could be one of the biggest ever fake-jewellery sellers in Britain,
and in this secure west London lockup,
the team are about to open the door to what could be the largest haul
of counterfeit gold and silver ever found in the UK.
It's taken months of investigation to get them this close
to the potentially enormous seizure.
The footage you are seeing was shot by private investigator
and former police officer Dave McKelvey.
He's spent months carrying out surveillance on this man.
Dave suspects he could be Britain's biggest illegal fake-jewellery seller,
dealing in counterfeit Links, Pandora, Chanel, Tiffany
and many others.
This may look just like a market stall,
but it's the front of a major international operation selling fakes.
The seller even has his own website.
He sells on a weekly basis at various markets.
We've identified his storage facilities,
which we believe will have a substantial amount
of property within them.
But I would think he's making
somewhere in the region of £3,000 to £5,000 each market he operates from.
Dave believes that his target is importing counterfeit jewellery
and watches from China. He's selling fake Tiffany, Pandora, Links
and most of the major brands available on the high street.
He will deceive people into parting with their hard-earned money.
And later we'll see the enormous scale of his operation,
as police and Trading Standards
find out what's behind the padlocked door.
Latest Chanel, Bulgari again... Who would know?
Roughly 250,000 consignments pass through Heathrow Airport each month.
And a select few contain the means to create false identities.
It seems that would-be fraudsters in the UK
are ordering in documents from forgers abroad.
Russel Webb is part of a UK Border Agency detection team
that hunts through the airport's cargo every day to look for any fakes being sent in.
This is a package which was detected recently
by one of the operational anti-smuggling teams
at Heathrow Airport. It's come from West Africa,
and it's going to an address in Essex.
Hidden amongst the contents of it were a number of CDs.
One of them contained...
..a Liberian passport,
and it's been addressed to an individual
who isn't the holder of the document.
That causes us grounds for suspicion.
A document like this could be used to create a new identity
for somebody who's in the United Kingdom illegally.
With that new identity, they perhaps open a bank account,
and they'd use that to perhaps launder the proceeds of crime.
They'd perhaps claim benefits they weren't entitled to.
They'd maybe use the document to try and gain access to the Health Service.
You can see this page, the bio-data page,
it doesn't lie flat on the passport cover,
and that's a very good indication
for the documents being tampered with.
And a package from West Africa to Italy has also attracted interest.
What it contains is almost like a false-identity kit.
It would enable the recipient
to establish a completely false identity for themselves.
We've got a driving licence...
The printing is a very poor quality. There's no hologram on there.
The National-Insurance number card, completely counterfeit,
and a United Kingdom passport.
With the package seized, whoever paid to have the fake ID
probably lost a lot of money.
These are a number of Iraqi passports.
These are quite unusual in that they're blank.
There's no bio-data page in these,
so when they arrive at their destination,
somebody's details will be put in there.
at the front, there's the number of the passport.
You can see the number ends with 360.
That number should be repeated throughout the document.
The Iraqi passports had obvious faults and were seized.
But with one and a half million tons of freight
arriving at Heathrow every year,
Russel and his team have to remain vigilant.
Identity fraud costs the UK £2.7 billion a year,
according to the National Fraud Authority,
and fraudsters have devised many different ways
of getting their hands on your money.
This is HSBC's branch in Cobham, a quiet town in Surrey.
In March 2010,
a woman walked in and asked to withdraw just under £10,000
from what she claimed was her own bank account.
She presented a passport as proof of identity,
but staff were suspicious that she wasn't who she claimed to be.
They called the home phone number of the real account holder,
and discovered she was at home with her husband.
The woman in front of them was a fake.
I received a call from my account officer
saying that there was somebody that had just come into the Cobham branch
with a fake British passport with all of my details,
and she had attempted to withdraw just shy of £10,000.
I was surprised that they had my name, my address and my birth date,
and all that information. It wasn't just that they had access to my name
and my account number.
Back at the bank, this would-be fraudster made a run for it,
but the police later arrested her.
They suspect she had paid a forger for a fake passport
in the victim's name, but with her own picture fraudulently put in.
Today Suzie Martin from Surrey Police
has brought the passport to the National Document Fraud Unit.
Their analysis is a crucial part of the case against the fraudster.
We can't reveal the unit's exact location,
but the team here are the UK's foremost analysts
of fake identity documents.
They are the people that the police and intelligence services come to
when they need to know for certain if a document is fake or not.
Forgery expert Nadia Bremner will be taking a very close look
at the passport. Nadia starts by demonstrating to the officer
what a correct British passport should look like.
You've got fine lines in solid colour
in the background, these fine lines,
and that's how a genuine document should be printed.
How does the fake compare?
You can see that the print starts to break down
into random coloured dots,
so it's the wrong print process that they've used.
The typeface is also slightly different.
That's made up of dots,
whereas the other one's block lettering.
Nadia is using extreme magnification
to look at the quality of the suspect passport.
The fraudster probably hoped no-one would ever look this closely.
The stitching has been picked out and re-stitched.
That's why the stitch-holes are larger than they should be.
So they've literally replaced the entire sheet with a counterfeit page.
It's not a bad attempt at a forgery. I've seen worse counterfeit pages.
And for the real account holder, who nearly lost £10,000,
the whole incident was a bolt out of the blue.
I found it to be shocking to see a passport
with all my information but with a picture that wasn't my own.
The fraudster paid for a fake passport in Vicky's name,
but no-one has been able to explain to the couple
how their personal details were stolen.
And the couple had to take decisive action to protect their finances.
There's so much information out there, I'm going to the next step
that I want to kill the trail, and that is closing the relationship
with one bank and opening a new relationship with another bank.
And with the passport confirmed as a fake,
the would-be fraudster, Lisa Rogers,
pleaded guilty to the attempted theft.
But she failed to turn up for sentencing,
and the police issued a warrant for her arrest.
In one three-month period,
UK consumers spent £114 million on gold jewellery.
But the most desirable high-street brands don't come cheap -
unless, of course, you know this man.
Earlier on, we saw how he is suspected
of selling tens of thousands of pounds of fake jewellery.
Tiffany, Links, Pandora - he's got the lot.
He's even got a website and a market stall,
and authentic packaging. But he's no wide boy.
He's running an international business in fakes.
But, thanks to a team of private investigators,
the police and Trading Standards have enough evidence
to arrest the seller at his house and seize all his fakes.
Officers have his house surrounded.
After six months' work investigating the suspect,
they want to be sure he doesn't duck out the back.
No-one is answering the door, but the team are prepared.
They've brought a locksmith to get them in
so they can carry out a full search.
And right inside the door there are bags of jewellery.
If it's real, it would be worth a fortune.
If they're all fakes, it's incriminating evidence.
But a close examination by Trading Standards confirms
these are all fakes, and they'll be seized.
And private investigator Dave McKelvey
has made what he thinks is a key find -
the trader's paperwork and computer files.
This could be crucial evidence for proving the size of his operation,
and who was supplying him.
It's a very sophisticated operation,
one of the most sophisticated we've seen.
But Dave's investigation suggests the faker has a lot more stock than this hidden somewhere.
During his surveillance, Dave witnessed this west London lockup
being used for storage. Now the team want to get inside it.
There may be fakes inside,
but a piece of real heavy metal is keeping the team locked out for now.
It's full - but of what?
These will be the watches, won't they?
Tiffany, Mont Blanc pens...
Chanel, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana,
Tiffany, Versace, Bulgari...
The latest Chanel. Bulgari again.
Hublot watch in a leather-bound case.
That'll sit in there, and who would know?
The haul is massive. It's one of the biggest ever in the UK.
It's the result Dave McKelvey was hoping for.
I would estimate, if that was genuine product,
we'd be looking at between £10 million to £20 million worth. It's a good result.
It's seven, eight months' worth of hard work.
Lots of work went into that case,
and it's nice that, at the end of it, you've got that type of result,
and we've taken out an entire network involved in counterfeiting,
involved in selling counterfeit jewellery.
In terms of jewellery and the retail value of the goods,
this is probably one of the biggest seizures
that any Trading Standards Authority in the country has carried out.
Although the seller wasn't home, he later surrendered himself to the police to be charged.
Later, the team take a closer look at the fakes they've seized,
and there's much more to be revealed.
Nickel's a carcinogenic, illegal in the UK.
And we'll see the faker who received hundreds of hours of NHS treatment.
He came through A&E, claiming to be coughing up blood.
But he's not sick - he's a fake patient.
He's cost the NHS thousands and thousands of pounds.
We've seen how fake identify documents
are being shipped into the country illicitly via the airports.
But how far can you get with a fake ID
and a little bit of deviousness?
This man is Lorand Borbely and he's from Romania,
but he entered the UK in 2004 with a fake Hungarian passport
in the name of Laszlo Lovas.
These CCTV pictures show him going to a bank
near his home in Lincolnshire, where he was using his fake ID
to make a serious amount of money.
It's a white Mercedes CLC 220 CDI.
This footage was taken by UK Border Agency officers
after they raided his home.
They had a tip-off that he'd used his fake ID
to take out multiple mortgages and acquire a string of properties.
Using his false name, he even became a semi-professional footballer
playing for Deeping Rangers, and then a playing director
at Boston Town.
The properties he'd mortgaged with fake IDs
were netting him a fortune in weekly rent,
and paying for the lavish footballer's lifestyle he lived.
Large wardrobe, Armani wristwatch...
UK Border Agency officers were shocked by what they found.
His deception had benefited him
by around £750,000.
He was sentenced to 11 months in jail.
Another bundle of cash.
I've been an immigration officer and done other things for 19 years now.
In my experience, that's the most lavish lifestyle
that I've seen someone living in a false identity in the UK.
Of course, he set a very negative example.
He was a negative role model for the other Eastern Europeans in Boston,
the vast majority of whom work on the land, send money back home,
work very hard to support families. Yet he was living the life of Riley,
driving around in swanky cars, all of it committed through criminality,
obtained through criminality, and all on a false identity,
so he's a negative role model for that kind of lifestyle.
He was someone we were very pleased to send to prison.
Living a life of fraud may have initially brought Lorand Borbely
great riches, but when his deception was discovered,
he swapped the WAGs for the lags in a jail cell.
Waiting times at hospitals are a constant concern for patients,
politicians, and, of course, doctors.
But would you believe there's a breed of faker in Britain
who's doing their best to make waiting times even longer?
This is Chesterfield Hospital,
and the man that staff are escorting off the premises
is Christopher Dearlove.
Moments ago, he walked into the accident-and-emergency department
with some serious symptoms, and saying he was coughing up blood.
But staff refused to treat him. They didn't believe he was really ill.
They thought he was a fake patient,
what investigators call a hospital-hopper.
A hospital-hopper is someone who takes up hospital beds
when they've got no real need to,
and travel from trust to trust, from city to city,
using the facilities of the NHS as hotels.
Staff across the NHS are seeing an increase in fake patients,
and it's costing NHS trusts hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Chesterfield matron Jamie Tremlett remembers his first meeting
with Christopher Dearlove.
He thought he had a very sick patient to care for.
He originally came through A&E, claiming to be coughing up blood.
He was on a train from the south to the north of England,
and got off the train and called an ambulance,
claiming he was coughing up blood.
When he arrived in the A&E department,
we admitted him because of the symptoms he described.
Yeah. He claimed to be a haemophiliac and have AIDS,
but he came in on Friday evening and claimed to be being treated
at the Royal Free Hospital in London,
and we couldn't substantiate those claims
because of the time of the week it was.
Dearlove had researched illnesses,
and completely fooled staff into thinking he was ill.
You wouldn't turn somebody away who had the symptoms.
It would warrant investigation, so he was admitted to the medical unit.
But his condition didn't turn out to be serious after all.
In fact, after a weekend of checking,
staff could find nothing wrong with him. He was discharged.
Hospital-hoppers are one of the reasons
that the NHS set up a Counter Fraud Service,
a team of investigators who tackle people
who try to cheat the NHS.
They had received reports of a suspected hopper
from several hospitals. As they investigated Dearlove,
they discovered he had been playing the fake patient for a while.
We believe that he's been engaged in these activities
for well over ten years. He is a persistent low-level fraudster.
On this occasion we decided to explore on a national basis
all of the incidents of hospital-hoppers.
The Counter Fraud team went to hospitals across the UK
and examined CCTV, hospital records
and the list of Dearlove's known aliases.
We looked at the intelligence associated with it
and then we realised that this man
was seriously suspected of being responsible
for a vast number of, er, incidents.
He used a large number of names when he attended the hospitals.
It's very hard to estimate how much he's cost the NHS
over the years, but it runs into the thousands and thousands of pounds.
And Dearlove is certainly not the only fake patient in Britain.
But their actions make genuine hospital users angry.
It's disgusting really,
especially, like we're saying, as a taxpayer,
I'm paying for that service,
and when somebody in my family can't actually use it,
and somebody is pretending to be ill, that's disgusting.
For somebody to just walk in when there's nothing wrong with them,
it's not acceptable. Summat needs to be done about it.
The Counter Fraud Service sent out alerts to every NHS trust
in the country. It showed Dearlove's picture
and a list of all the different names he used
to check in at different hospitals, from Land's End to John O'Groats.
Soon enough, he tried to return to Chesterfield Hospital,
using a different name to check in.
But Jamie and his team were ready.
Me and the consultant on call that night discussed it,
and we decided we needed to confront him,
so we had a quick chat about his previous form
and looked through some of the previous alerts,
and we decided to question him about the symptoms he came in with,
and see if it all was substantiated. He was quite clever,
and he was quite definitive about the symptoms he had,
and they added up to what he was admitted with,
so we called him by a different name, one of his previous aliases,
and asked him to confirm his name, and he confirmed it as a previous alias.
And we at that point challenged him, the consultant challenged him,
and at that point he decided he didn't want any treatment and left.
With confirmation from Jamie and others,
the Counter Fraud team had the proof they needed to charge Dearlove.
He was arrested by the police. The Counter Fraud Service officers interviewed him.
Primarily he denied having visited the hospitals
that we questioned him about, or refused to answer the questions.
All of the doctors and nurses throughout the north of England
who were witnesses in this case, every one of them picked him out.
Dearlove was given an ASBO, banning him from entering hospitals
except if he was in real medical need.
But within months of receiving it,
he was caught playing the fake patient again.
A judge gave him board and lodgings for free,
but this time it was a six-month jail sentence.
I hope we don't see him again, yeah.
But if we do, we'll call the police
and he'll be dealt with in the appropriate way.
Earlier on, we saw police and Trading Standards in West London
seize what they think may be the largest-ever haul of counterfeit jewellery in the UK.
They know they've smashed a major operation
that was importing fake goods, but what no-one knows yet
is what all the jewellery is actually made of -
and it might surprise you.
Dave Merry is head of training at the London Assay Office
of the Goldsmiths' Company. They were set up in the 1300s,
and it's their job to test all precious metals
and give them the official hallmark, like 22-carat gold
or 925 silver. For a small fee, members of the public
can have their gold and silver items tested for purity
at any of the four main assay offices in the UK.
We're the oldest form of consumer protection
in the country and always have been, by hundreds of years.
Some of the jewellery seized by Wandsworth Trading Standards
appears to have hallmarks, suggesting they are made of silver,
stamped on them. This would make a consumer think
what they were buying was precious metal.
Dave is going to test an item to see if the hallmarks on it
are fraudulent, and if it's not really silver at all.
As I suspected, there's a 925 sterling-silver mark on here.
Not the full hallmark - the manufacturer's 925,
which is just telling you that it's supposed to be 92.5 percent sterling silver.
To test what the bracelets are made of,
Dave will use a touchstone.
It's the oldest form of assay known to man,
still used every day at London Assay Office here.
What we do is, we rub a reference point on the surface of the stone,
so this is 925 sterling silver.
Now Dave makes a rubbing with a suspect fake bracelet.
Now, straight away I can see there's a problem here.
We have a sterling-silver rubbing, which is obviously a white metal.
The metal that's supposed to be silver
is coming up as a red rubbing on the surface of the stone.
We have some silver sulphate that we add to the touchstone,
and this is a very easy test, because this is just showing me
that anything that turns black with the acid
literally is base metal, and you can see here,
we have a nice black stain right in the middle of that rubbing
for the necklace.
The test is telling me that this is definitely a piece of base metal.
Probably been silver plated, but we'll do a further test on this.
This machine will analyse the content of the metal,
so Dave will know exactly what the faker was selling.
What's happening here is, the X-ray is hitting the chain
that we're trying to test, and it excites the molecules in the metal.
Remember, this is supposed to be being sold as a silver piece,
and there we have a very nice tall copper peak,
with a smaller zinc peak and a little tiny nickel peak.
Nickel's a carcinogenic. It's illegal, in the UK,
to plate anything with nickel.
It can bring you up in a very heavy rash around your wrist
or your neck, if you're wearing it very close to your skin.
Very cleverly and very craftily, what these guys do is,
just so you don't go taking them back after two weeks,
it's been given a nice little coating of nickel,
which is very hard, so in two weeks' time,
you haven't worn through to that red colour
you saw on the touchstone, so by the time you take them back,
probably three or four months' time, they're not there any more.
It's a worrying result on the first test,
but there's worse to come.
I think we need to investigate some of these charms on this chain.
Some of them look a little bit grey coloured,
which is just a little bit worrying,
especially as they are supposed to be sterling silver.
You can see there's many, many more peaks on this one.
But this is the one that really worries me.
"Pb", just for those who don't know, is lead.
As you can see, straight away we have lined up
three separate peaks of lead.
This has actually got a large amount of lead in it,
which is detrimental to health, obviously, from lead poisoning.
OK. So, my conclusions to this necklace are,
it's a piece of rubbish.
People buying the jewellery won't have realised
they could be putting themselves in danger.
Lead is toxic, and particularly hazardous to children.
It can cause brain damage and conditions such as anaemia
and high blood pressure. That's quite a price to pay
for a bit of jewellery.
And Dave has one other machine on the premises
that's perfect for dealing with fake jewellery,
such as this haul from a previous Trading Standards raid.
When this smelting machine reaches 1,500 degrees,
it will melt most metal, and that's the plan for all this junk.
As fake jewellery, this lot would have been sold off
for thousands, but there's no gold or silver in any of it -
just scrap metal.
That's where it all ends up - straight in the smelting pot,
melt it down, pour it, and that's it in the mould.
Well, I'd say the Trading Standards officer's job's done.
That's all from Fake Britain today. Bye for now!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
With Dominic Littlewood. We follow a private investigator working with police and trading standards as he tracks down one of the largest hauls of fake gold and jewellery ever discovered in the UK. And we see the work of the London Assay Office as they analyse what the fake jewellery is really made of - with shocking results.
We see how the UK Border Agency is stopping international forgers using air cargo to get fake ID into the country and a fake holidaymaker is revealed with her 'crib sheet' of how to respond to immigration officials' questions. Plus, how they tracked down the fake footballer, an illegal immigrant who made a fortune by buying property using fake ID while he played football for local clubs.
We meet the woman who was told by her bank that a fake copy of her passport had been presented to them to withdraw a huge sum of money. We see how a London employment agency has had to install high-tech anti-forgery equipment to check on fake documents, as they are now presented with so many forgeries. We follow the work of the NHS counterfraud unit as it tackles 'hospital hoppers', fake patients who tie up valuable resources while pretending to be ill.