Police investigating a spate of counterfeit notes in the Hunter believe the criminal operation might be bigger than first thought.
On Tuesday police attended a service station at Gateshead in relation to the receipt of counterfeit $50 notes.
Inquiries by Lake Macquarie Police District officers led them to a hotel room in a nearby tavern where they arrested a 20-year-old man and 24-year-old woman.
A search of the room allegedly uncovered numerous counterfeit notes of various denominations, mobile phones, tablet devices and equipment used in the production of fake currency.
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The pair was charged with a range of counterfeit-related offences and granted conditional bail to appear before Belmont Local Court on Thursday March 8.
Investigators from the neighbouring Port Stephens/Hunter Police District are now investigating another 16 incidences of fake notes being passed to shopkeepers in the past five days.
An additional note has also been identified at Forster on the mid-north coast.
“We are trying to determine whether these crimes are linked but in each case, unknown forgers and/or their cronies are passing fake 50 and 20 dollar notes over to busy, unwitting shopkeepers,” Port Stephens/Hunter Crime Manager, Detective Inspector George Radmore, said.
“At first glance, the notes look authentic, but on closer inspection it’s easy to see they’re fakes,” Detective Inspector Radmore added.
“They’re easily crumpled unlike real currency and the slightly smaller notes we’ve seized so far appear to feature stars, poorly drawn with white marker pen, inside the polymer-style window,” he said.
Port Stephens/Hunter Police today have released images of a fake 50 dollar note presented as payment to a Maitland pharmacy on Wednesday.
That note wasn’t discovered until staff attempted to deposit it at a local ATM.
Police are warning customers and businesses alike to be on the lookout for counterfeit currency and to report any further instances.
Port Stephens/Hunter detectives, meantime, have alerted the Australian Federal Police Currency Team.
They are also collating and examining CCTV footage in a bid to identify those responsible.
Police are urging anyone with information in relation to this incident to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page.