Fourth member of £12m counterfeit currency group jailed

Andrew Ainsworth was found guilty of conspiring to produce counterfeit currency. Image: Kent Police
Andrew Ainsworth was found guilty of conspiring to produce counterfeit currency. Image: Kent Police

A fourth member of an organised crime group has been jailed for conspiring to supply more than £12m of counterfeit banknotes.

Farningham resident Andrew Ainsworth, 61, was found guilty of conspiring to produce counterfeit currency following a trial at Woolwich Crown Court in March 2022. He was sentenced to five-and-a-half years on Friday (29 April).

His imprisonment follows a lengthy investigation by specialist detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, including the single largest face-value seizure of fake currency in UK history following a raid at an industrial unit in Beckenham, Kent, in 2019.

Support was also provided by the Bank of England and counterfeit currency officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Three other members of the same criminal network Ainsworth belonged to were sentenced to a combined total of 22-and-a-half years in January 2021, having admitted to their involvement in the conspiracy.

A further four men were found not guilty after going on trial alongside Ainsworth.

Detectives were able to prove that Ainsworth had strong financial and personal connections to those who had already admitted their involvement in the conspiracy. This included him being present during meetings the group held in public, and his attendance at the printing press in Beckenham.

An investigation into the group’s activities began in January 2019. This was around the same time the Bank of England identified a new counterfeit paper £20 note entering general circulation, which appeared to have been produced using printing equipment “that would normally be associated with a company that produces large volumes of magazines or leaflets”.

Kent Police told Printweek last year that a Heidelberg GT Platen was used to foil the notes, while the printing machine located at the site of the police raid, which is believed to have been used to print the notes themselves, was a Heidelberg Speedmaster.

Enquiries established that parts and materials associated with the production of fake currency on a commercial scale had been ordered and were linked to a printing press owned by one of the conspirators in Kent House Lane, Beckenham.

After several months of investigating those believed to be involved, including mobile phone analysis, a search warrant was carried out at the press on 4 May 2019.

Inside, officers found two men surrounded by printing equipment and large piles of counterfeit £20 notes, which were later confirmed as having a total face value of £5.25m.

A pallet of counterfeit cash discovered in Beckenham. Image: Kent Police

A subsequent search of an address in Longfield led to the discovery of a list of names with numbers next to them that added up to 5.25 million – the same value of the counterfeit notes. The names on the list included those that either belonged to, or were nicknames of, those suspected of being involved in the conspiracy, including Ainsworth.

In the months that followed, further large amounts of counterfeit currency believed to have been printed by them continued to be discovered.

On 9 October 2019, a dog walker found around £5m worth of fake banknotes dumped in Belvedere. A further £200,940 was found scattered along the railway line between Farningham and Longfield on 15 January 2020, with the Bank of England having already identified and removed around £1.8m from general circulation.

The printed £20 notes were all in the old paper style, as this happened prior to the Bank of England’s new polymer £20 note entering circulation in February 2020.

Assistant chief constable Andrew Pritchard, head of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: “The sentencing of Andrew Ainsworth marks the culmination of a complex investigation in which no stone was left unturned in clamping down on an organised crime group who went to great lengths to literally create their own wealth.

“Counterfeiting is not a victimless act because it directly funds other types of serious organised crime and hurts the UK economy by creating losses for businesses, which ultimately affects the cost of the things we buy. It also has a direct impact on those who receive counterfeit notes in exchange for goods or services, and who are unable to pass on what are essentially worthless pieces of paper.”

He added: “The printing press our officers raided in Beckenham was supposed to produce magazines, leaflets and flyers but instead contained the largest face-value quantity of counterfeit cash ever discovered in the UK. This was a professionally run operation but those involved were naïve if they thought they could carry on undetected.

“Kent Police remains committed to working with partners including the NCA and Bank of England to ensure those who print counterfeit currency are brought to justice, sending a clear message to others that this type of offending is not tolerated.”

One of the members of the same criminal network Ainsworth belonged to who has already been sentenced was Nick Winter of Elmers End Road, Beckenham, who was jailed for six years on 21 December 2020.

Companies House lists a disqualification by court order on 21 December 2020 for Nicholas Winter, born in January 1962, for conduct while acting for WDP Ronco, under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 (Section 2). His disqualification began on 11 January 2021 and runs until 10 January 2027.

On Companies House filings for WDP Ronco, Nick Eliott Winter, born in January 1962, is listed as one of the directors of the printing company that, according to the London Gazette, had traded from the Gardner Industrial Estate in Kent House Lane, Beckenham until it entered liquidation in October 2019.

Another company, We Do, listed a Nicholas Elliot Winter, born in January 1963, as a director. Dissolved in October 2020 via voluntary strike-off, the company’s previous name was Daleholm, whose records show the same Nick Eliott Winter listed for WDP Ronco as a former director who resigned in 2010.