If you thought that counterfeit money was only the preserve of traditional “brick and mortar” criminals, you may have to think again. Some three Russians were apprehended for making high quality fake notes to the tune of $13 million and used Hydra Market to sell the fake notes in exchange for crypto.
According to Russian media, local authorities caught wind of the counterfeiting operation after some counterfeit notes were detected in the Russian federal republic of Tatarstan. A probe that was launched into the matter yielded results showing the existence of a robust criminal network of counterfeiters that produced fake rubles across the Russian Federation.
Apart from the fact that the counterfeiting scheme covered the entire Russian territory, it was found that the counterfeiting masterminds, spread across the Federation, operated independently.
Reportedly, the group of counterfeiters would manufacture the fake notes and distribute them across the country – followed by an endeavor to sell fake notes via the dark web. Although the first counterfeits showed up in 2019, it took law enforcement agencies about a year to close in on the scheme’s main organizers.
The three chief counterfeiters of the entire scheme were identified as Oleg Efimov, Ivan Averof and Andrey Skvortsov from Nizhny Novgorod City – a densely populated city located 400km east of the Russian capital.
During the police operation that led to the arrest of the three individuals, authorities confiscated an assortment of devices that invlude color printers, laptop computers, laminators and preset images of coats of arms. As mentioned before, the group had operated for a whole year before the police closed in on them having executed an excess of 3,000 transactions with the fake counterfeit notes.
Further, adding to the arrest of the three masterminds, authorities also apprehended a number of counterfeit money peddlers named as Muscovite Yulia Isayeva and Alexander Porhunov.
Sales via Hydra Market
The mode of operation of the counterfeiting scheme, according to the Russian daily newspaper Kommersant, involved the sale of counterfeit notes via the dark web marketplace called Hydra.
Like all other dark web platforms, Hydra Market can only be accessed via Tor – an aspect that attracted the criminals who would sell the fake notes while concealing their IP addresses. The anonymity and security offered by the dark web platform frustrated law enforcement efforts in locating the counterfeiters. Despite the operation, some of the fake money peddles involved in the operation are still at large.
The sale of these notes depended on valuations in percentages of the fake currency’s face value. Authorities learnt that half a million fake rubles were advertised for just 10 percent of their face value with smaller amounts of up to 150,000 rubles being sold for 30 percent of their face value.
Notably, all payments for the notes were done in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. The decision to adopt crypto meant that the counterfeiters’ identities would be effectively hidden as far as transactions were concerned.