Five people have been sentenced for a counterfeit money scheme which they ran at railway stations across the county.
At Hove Crown Court on Thursday, Eli Cooper, 31, from South Coast Road, Peacehaven, Dean Cooper, 32, from Westway, Wick, Tony Cooper, 26, from Selsfield Drive, Brighton, and Robert and Katrina Smart, from Kingsway, Hove, were sentenced for their part in a counterfeit money scheme.
The scheme saw cheap tickets being bought at railway station vending machines across East and West Sussex with fake £10 and £20 Scottish bank notes to obtain change which was legal currency.
The court heard that on January 1, 2016, at about 3pm, Eli arrived at Goring railway station with a woman and he carried out the plan, before boarding the train to Angmering, where they got off and did he did the same again, this time getting change for two counterfeit £20 notes and eight fake £10 notes. It also happened again at Ford railway station on the same day.
According to prosecutor Giles Morrison, the tickets bought ranged in price from £1.30 to £5.10.
At midday on January 4, Dean entered Balcombe railway station, where Tony was with an unidentified male, and asked a staff member at the ticket office for a refund on 11 train tickets.
When asked why he had so many tickets, Dean said: “I kept chucking money in the machine and it kept chucking tickets out. Your machine isn’t working properly.”
On February 11, police went to Robert and Katrina Smart’s house, Dean and Tony’s address at the time and Eli’s last known address.
At the Smart’s address, Robert was arrested and during a search of his house, a quantity of counterfeit notes were seized, including a sheet of paper with £20 notes printed on both sides. A large amount of mixed Bank of England notes were found, which were real.
In a Ford Focus belonging to Robert, more Scottish counterfeit notes were found.
At the address of Tony and Dean, both were arrested. During that search, counterfeit currency was found in DVD cases, the rear garden and a wallet containing Tony’s photo ID.
Eli was arrested at his home address after being found by police hiding under a bed.
The group had 243 previous offences on their criminal records between them.
The lawyers representing the five defendants urged Judge David Rennie not to imprison them, saying their families would suffer and would benefit from structured community orders.
Defending Katrina, 53, Selwyn Shapiro said his client had been out of trouble for 10 years, and police found two of her prints on one of the notes because she was tidying them.
Representing Eli, Alexandra Scott said of her client’s criminal credentials: “He isn’t very good at it, to put it that bluntly. He is slightly put off of the criminal lifestyle because he knows he isn’t very good at it.”
She added that Eli, who has been in custody since his latest arrest, has been taking Spice, a ‘very destructive drug’, in prison. She said he ‘wasn’t getting the help he needed’ on the inside but was cooperating with Pavilions drug and alcohol service in Brighton, which was willing to offer him a detox programme.
For having custody or control of counterfeit currency, Robert was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, with 160 hours of unpaid work, and Katrina was given a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, with a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement.
For all of his crimes, including two counts of tendering counterfeit currency, Judge David Rennie sentenced Eli to a two-year community order, with a nine-month drug rehabilitation requirement and a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement. He has to go on a thinking skills programme, and was disqualified from driving for 18 months.
For crimes including having custody or control of counterfeit currency, Tony was sentenced to 21 months in prison, suspended for two years, a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement, a nine-month drug rehabilitation requirement, and was disqualified from driving for 18 months.
For tendering counterfeit currency and having custody or control of counterfeit currency, Dean was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, with 160 days of unpaid work and a 25-day rehabilitation activity requirement.