A Glasgow crime organisation sent an aspiring Indian chef to Aberdeen to flood the city with counterfeit cash in exchange for genuine money.
Rashpal Singh was tasked with using forged £20 notes to pay for items in return for actual currency, with the gang dangling the reward of a job in front of him.
He was apparently one of several individuals sent to the city by the criminals with sums of fake money, and police have confirmed they believe a spate of the crimes reported recently are linked.
The 39-year-old enjoyed some initial successes but retail staff soon became suspicious about some of the notes being passed by he and other unidentified individuals.
Singh was eventually arrested as he tried his luck at the Asda supermarket on the Beach Boulevard.
He appeared at Aberdeen Sheriff Court yesterday and claimed he had been one of a number of people sent to carry out the crime by crooks from the central belt.
His solicitor said he had been promised a job as a chef if he completed the dishonest mission.
Depute fiscal Callum Thomson said that shop-workers’ suspicions were first aroused when an unknown woman purchased a bottle of shower gel worth £1 with an unusual £20 note at the Union Square branch of Boots on Saturday, January 19.
Mr Thomson said: “The employee suspected the £20 note was not genuine due to its texture, but was not certain and gave £19 in change.
“Five minutes later, Singh entered and approached the same till to buy a hairdryer worth £59.99, with three £20 notes similar to the one the woman had used.
“The cashier again had suspicions but a detector pen left no mark on them, as she believed it should have, so gave the accused 1p in change.”
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The worker did, however, report her concerns to management – who alerted the police.
The following day, Singh used a £20 note to purchase a loaf of bread worth £1 from the Iceland shop at Beach Boulevard, and left with £19 in change.
Police were again contacted after workers raised concerns about the legitimacy of the cash.
Singh was arrested shortly afterwards at Asda, and later pleaded guilty to charges of tendering what he knew to be counterfeit currency at Boots and Iceland.
The accused, of Lyoncross in Bonnybridge, also admitted a charge of perverting the course of justice by providing police with a false name and address when they caught up with him that day.
Defence agent Mike Munro said his client had been driven to Aberdeen “along with others” to carry out the scheme.
He said: “The person who sent him promised him a job as a chef if he did this favour first.
“He was told what to do, and instructed to use the forged £20 notes to buy something of minimal value and get as much back as possible.”
His solicitor did not address how purchasing the hairdryer – and receiving just 1p change – fitted into the fraudulent scheme.
Singh has been held on remand since his arrest, but Sheriff Philip Mann released him on bail until he returns to the dock for sentencing next month.
Police have advised traders to watch out for a “peculiar smell” from fake notes.
Detective Sergeant John Lumsden said: “I would encourage retailers to be on their guard for this type of incident and to call police with any information they have that would help our investigation.
“Often the notes may have a peculiar smell as an attempt may have been made to bypass legitimacy tests.”
Chairman of the Greater George Street Traders Association, Stuart Milne, said he would warn its members to be vigilant against the underhand practice.
Mr Milne, who is also manager of the Finnie’s jewellery store, said: “The use of £20 notes is obviously a deliberate ploy, as £50 notes are more likely to attract suspicion from shopkeepers.
“We are always concerned about online fraud these days but it sounds like these people are acting as mules, and can be just as dangerous to small businesses.”
Detective Sergeant John Lumsden said: “I would like to encourage the public and retailers, particularly smaller independent shops, to be on their guard for this type of incident and to call police with any information they have that would help our investigation.”