Four men have been sentenced for making fake coins that were being sold in boot sales across Essex.
An investigation by the Essex Police Serious Organised Crime Unit estimated the criminal enterprise had the potential to make more than £200,000 in counterfeit coins.
Officers received information in November 2017 that fake £2 coins were being made in Basildon and sold on.
They executed a warrant that month at an industrial unit in Southfields Business Park, Basildon, with support from the National Crime Agency’s Counterfeit Currency Unit (UKNCO) and Royal Mint.
Robert Mead, 68, and Dave Venables, 60, were arrested at the scene, where a number of machines were being used to produce counterfeit coins, as well as metal strips and other equipment.
Officers also found £5,600 in cash in the boot of Venables’ Jaguar, and £1,495 in cash and fake coins in Mead’s car.
David Marshall, 74, arrived while police were searching the premises, and equipment to make fake coins was found inside his Jaguar.
Further evidence was found at their home addresses, which linked all three to the criminal enterprise.
Mead’s son Bobby Mead, 31, of Cecil Court, Southend, was later identified through fingerprints found on metal strips inside the industrial unit.
All four were charged in July 2019 with conspiracy to make counterfeit currency, following an extensive investigation.
Robert Mead, of Braintree Road, Dunmow, and Bobby Mead admitted the charges at Basildon Crown Court on September 30, 2019.
Venables, of Gordon Road, Basildon, and Marshall, of Hunts Drive, Writtle, pleaded guilty on February 12 last year.
They were given suspended sentences at Basildon Crown Court on Friday July 30.
Mead, who leased the industrial unit and led the operation, was sentenced to nine months in prison, which has been suspended for two years. Venables received the same sentence.
Marshall and Bobby Mead were both sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 12 months.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Nelson said: “Coins valued at a couple of thousand pounds were found during the searches that were carried out as part of the warrant.
“Our investigation found the defendants had bought enough metal to make 107,640 coins, equivalent to £215,280.
“Making counterfeit money is not a victimless crime because worthless fake coins and notes put consumers and businesses out of pocket. Fraudsters also use fake money to con vulnerable people and charities.”
A spokesperson for The Royal Mint said: “UK coins are amongst the most secure in the world, featuring layers of intricate designs and latent features. This means the chance of finding a counterfeit coin is low, and we work with authorities and cash industry to ensure any examples are quickly identified and removed from circulation.”
Neil Harris, acting manager in the NCA’s counterfeit currency unit, said: “We supported the Essex operation, which dismantled this criminal enterprise and prevented large quantities of counterfeit coinage entering circulation and helped prevent economic harm.
“Essex Police is also undertaking a confiscation investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover the benefit these criminals have made from their offending.”