Trio jailed after UK’s largest counterfeit cash seizure

(L-R) Co-conspirators John Evans, Phillip Brown and Nick Winter. Image: Kent Police
(L-R) Co-conspirators John Evans, Phillip Brown and Nick Winter. Image: Kent Police

Three members of an organised crime group have been jailed for conspiracy to print over £12m of counterfeit cash, following a police raid in May 2019 at an industrial unit in Beckenham, Kent.

After what is believed to have been the single largest face-value seizure of fake currency in UK history, John Evans and Phillip Brown were jailed for over 15 years between them at Woolwich Crown Court yesterday (20 January), having previously admitted their involvement in the conspiracy.

A third member of the group, Nick Winter, 58, of Elmers End Road, Beckenham, was jailed for six years on 21 December 2020. 

Their imprisonment follows a lengthy and complex investigation by specialist detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate. Support was also provided by the Bank of England and the Counterfeit Currency unit at the National Crime Agency.

The police investigation into the group’s activities began in January 2019 after the Bank of England had identified a new counterfeit £20 note that appeared to have been produced using equipment that “would normally be associated with a company that produces large volumes of magazines or leaflets”.

Kent Police told Printweek 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.

Following several months of enquiries, including mobile phone analysis of those believed to have been involved in its production, a search warrant was carried out at a business premises owned by Winter in Kent House Lane, Beckenham, on 4 May 2019.

Inside, officers found Brown and another man surrounded by printing equipment and large piles of counterfeit £20 notes, which were later confirmed as having a total face value of £5.25m. Upon his arrest, Brown told the officers “you have caught me red-handed”.

A subsequent search of his home address 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.

Winter had been on holiday in America at the time his business was raided but was arrested upon his return to the UK on 26 May 2019.

One of the names on the list seized from Brown’s home was ‘John’, which is believed to refer to John Evans. Upon his arrest on 13 September 2019, officers found a highly encrypted telephone that he later admitted was evidence of criminal activity despite initially denying his involvement in this particular conspiracy.

After all three men had been charged in relation to the conspiracy, further large amounts of counterfeit currency believed to have been printed by the group’s members continued to be discovered in the months that followed.

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 £1.6m worth 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.

At Woolwich Crown Court yesterday, Evans, 27, of King Georges Walk in Esher, Surrey – one of the main organisers of the criminal operation – was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment as a result. He had also pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice for attempting to exert pressure on another man to admit his involvement.

Brown, 54, of Ash Road, Longfield, was jailed for six years and six months.

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 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.

Detective chief superintendent Morgan Cronin of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: “Counterfeiting directly funds 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 fake notes in exchange for goods or services, as what they thought was genuine money is in fact worthless.

“John Evans was one of the main players in what is believed to be the biggest conspiracy of this kind in the history of UK policing, and the length of his sentence reflects the seriousness of the crimes he committed. Phillip Brown and Nick Winter also played vital roles in the operation and are also now behind bars as a result.

“Organised criminal groups will go to great lengths to obtain expensive homes, fast cars and other luxuries they are not entitled to – even if it means printing the money required themselves. This was a sophisticated operation but one that was ultimately doomed to failure due to the offenders’ mistaken belief that they could carry on undetected.”

Neil Harris, senior officer in the National Crime Agency’s Counterfeit Currency unit, added: “Serious and organised criminals damage the economic health of the UK through their efforts to line their own pockets.

“We supported the operation which dismantled this criminal enterprise and prevented millions of pounds of counterfeit money entering the UK economy. The impact of that counterfeit money would have been felt by unsuspecting members of the public across the UK.”