Hate work, but always wanted to be rich? Why not make your own cash? That’s what three Russian men in the city of Nizhny Novgorod did, clandestinely manufacturing high-quality fakes worth one billion rubles ($13.25 million).
According to Moscow daily Kommersant, cops discovered the counterfeiting operation after some fake notes turned up in Tatarstan in 2019. An investigation found that a national network of counterfeiters was producing, distributing, and selling high-quality fake rubles across the country.
Police discovered that the network was spread throughout Russia, and its members did not personally know each other. The group would produce counterfeit notes and distribute them nationwide, before selling the fakes online. Despite the first notes turning up in 2019, it took until 2020 to establish the identity of the organizers.
The masterminds of the falsification scheme were named as Nizhny Novgorod residents Oleg Efimov, Ivan Averof, and Andrey Skvortsov. Nizhny Novgorod is a city of over one million people about 400km east of Moscow. During the raids, police discovered an array of equipment, including color laser printers, laptops, laminators, and preset images of coats of arms. According to Kommersant, the criminal group has existed for about a year, and, during that time, successfully completed more than 3,000 transactions.
In addition to the arrest of the three organizers, police also detained other fake-money peddlers, Muscovite Yulia Isayeva and Balashikha resident Alexander Porhunov.
According to Kommersant, the modus operandi involved selling the counterfeit notes on the dark-web platform Hydra for a percentage of their face value. According to investigators, 500,000 fake rubles cost just 10-15 percent of their face value, and smaller amounts up to 150,000 were sold for 30 percent of face value.
Payments were made using cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin.
Hydra is a dark-web resource that can only be accessed through the browser Tor, which hides the user’s IP address. Thus, it was impossible for the police to discover every accomplice, and some are still today known only by their online nicknames. Their identities were further protected by their use of cryptocurrency.
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