On December 7, the world watched as one of the largest counterfeiting organizations fell apart. News outlets reported as much as possible—which was not much. The majority of the information came from a single official press release: the Public Prosecutor’s from the Ordinary Court of Brescia. However, the investigation involved more than just Italy. Europol, in 2015, helped Italian authorities investigate a counterfeit ring that operated out of Italy. However, the criminal group had ties across the globe. The press release focused mainly on that—crime and fraud in Italy. A day-and-a-half Europol and the other main players released their versions with essential details.
For instance, the Italian Press Release explained the extensive reach of the now-defunct organization but never mentioned the darknet. Like so, the press release said fraud and money laundering were the ring’s critical financial avenues. Fraud, money laundering, and investment scams caused millions of Euros in damage—but the collaboration with one of the best euro counterfeiters in the world raised eyebrows too.
“During the course of the investigation, several hundred counterfeit euro buyers were also identified,” the Europol Press Release stated.
The now-jailed counterfeiter, Carmine Guerriero, was responsible for far more than fake notes. The 30-year-old hacked banks, cloned credit cards, created identity documents, and created fake euros. Previous press releases mentioned seizures of 600,000 euros in the form of €20-notes, €50-notes, and €100-notes. They failed to mention that the notes came straight from Guerriero.
Guerriero started his entity on the internet, without a group behind him. Sources called him a computer genius and referenced his bedroom setup with multiple computers and screens. He scammed financial systems for millions of euros and, most notably, hacked Swiss Bank. Repeatedly. He kept hacking Swiss Bank until they offered him a career as chief of cybersecurity. He turned down the position and pursued the practice that ended his stint.
Under the pseudonym, Friend Frizz or “Amico Frizz” to be precise, Guerriero began crafting Euros and distributing them on the darknet. His work was well known, and Friend Frizz became one of the go-to darknet vendors—if counterfeit notes were the product in demand, that is. As every news outlet released, the fake notes shipped in books and were often undetectable. Eventually, by means unannounced, “Napoli Group” became a mark of quality for counterfeit notes. Guerriero’s notes. Some sources reported that he was the group’s leader; others said he was simply the distributor of counterfeits. Whatever the case may be, his work placed him on Europol’s radar for the duration of their coordinated investigation with Italy.
Counterfeit Euros Sold Well But Europol Identified The Buyers:
Europol announced that the group made an estimated €160,000 in Bitcoin by selling the knockoffs for 30 percent of their face value. The profit, in Bitcoin, ended up in Malta where a “specialized exchanger” laundered the coins. Europol clarified that buyers were not safe on the darknet. They identified several hundred but did not mention a follow-up investigation.
Wil van Gemert, Europol’s Deputy Director Operations:
This operation is an excellent example of how law enforcement cooperation and efficient information exchange are an excellent example of how law enforcement cooperation and effective information exchange are vital for tackling this crime. The secret services of the Darknet and Bitcoin payments can give sellers and buyers a false sense of anonymity. However, Europol and its partners are committed to investigating the “shadow” trade in illegal commodities, and to ensuring that these criminals are brought to justice.” (Europol Press Release)
Based on the specific role, each member received appropriate charges. Some played a lesser role than others. Moreover, the alleged leader played a vital role, and the indictment reflected that position. Apart from the charges unilaterally applied, Guerriero received the following charges:
- Criminal association aimed at the marketing of counterfeit banknotes;
- The falsification of records and documents;
- Commercialization of counterfeit stamps;
- And finally, The possession of cloned credit cards