A 17-year-old fraudster and three older accomplices have been jailed after trying to swindle a Manchester jeweller out of goods worth approximately two million euros.
The gang had attempted to arrange the purchase of 41 high value items from the Manchester branch of Rockefeller’s at the Thistle Hotel in Manchester, during which a member of the group would have concealed himself in makeshift furniture to exchange the legitimate cash for counterfeit notes incognito during the deal.
The quartet are suspected of being part of a larger and highly organised crime outfit suspected of being responsible for defrauding businesses across Europe out of jewellery and gold bullion worth millions.
Luigi Arcuri, 73, Nikolic Giuliano, 42, Antonino Ballisteri, 46, and the 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, all of no fixed abode, admitted conspiracy to defraud and possession of counterfeit currency.
The men had previously negotiated the purchase by posing as wealthy Italian businessmen sporting expensive suits and Rolex watches at the Rockefeller’s Manchester branch under false names.
Arrangements were made to meet at the Thistle Hotel where the group would supposedly fly in an alleged Swiss banker who would be in possession of two million euros in cash.
The fictitious Swiss banker was to be played by the part of Ballisteri under the alias of Mr Ferrari, who would supply the money.
On December 19 2014, the teenager of the group contacted the jewellers to say that the money was in the country and the exchange was confirmed for the following day.
The teenager and Ballisteri were then placed under covert surveillance by the GMP’s Serious Crime Group as they returned one last time to the jewellers to finalise the deal.
They police then swooped in and arrested the group in one of the hotel’s conference rooms whilst they were in the process of assembling wooden furniture for use in the swap.
The officers then disassembled the furniture to find an extraordinary €2.2 million in counterfeit notes and €52,000 in legitimate notes.
Police had first been alerted to the quartet when they were stopped on December 17 by UK border officials at Coquelles in France.
SWINDLE: CCTV footage of the men preparing for the ‘hand over’
The men had arrived in an Italian registered BMW and Fiat Panda, which were both stuffed with 95 bundles of notes, equalling €2.2 million.
Ballisteri also had in his possession a forged Swiss identity card and Swiss driving license which he would use later use as his own.
Following the stop all men were arrested, interviewed and then released pending further enquiries.
The men were eventually allowed through into the UK while the Serious Organised Crime Squad were alerted to the group’s entry and monitored their movements as the evidence against the group mounted.
Detective Inspector Rob Cousen, said: “This was a well-run, highly sophisticated scam and, had we not intervened, a Manchester business stood to lose significant amounts of stock worth a substantial sum.
“They are well skilled and versed fraudsters, able to dupe the most security conscious and discerning of individuals.”
“We will now be working with other law enforcement agencies to establish the extent of the criminal network behind them that has been operating.”
Ballistreri, Arcuri and Giuliano were sentenced to two years and eight months in prison at Manchester Crown Court yesterday.
The 17-year-old was sentenced to 16 months in prison.