Can you spot the fake $50 made by ‘proud’ forger?
A SYDNEY man has pleaded guilty to making $1 million in counterfeit $50 notes, boasting he forced the Reserve Bank of Australia to redesign the nation's currency.
Benjamin Gillette-Rothschild, 34, claimed the process was so easy he did it while kicking back in a leather office chair.
With no apparent formal training, he made fake cash so close to the real thing the RBA admitted that most members of the public wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
He has been sentenced to an undisclosed sentence, with Judge Garry Neilson in the Downing Centre District Court imposing a suppression order on most details of the case until "certain future events have occurred".
A set of agreed facts tendered in the case show Gillette-Rothschild pleaded guilty to eight charges relating to making counterfeit money and was sentenced on February 23. Exactly how he learnt how to make the fake notes cannot be revealed because of a court order.
An RBA spokesman did not respond to questions from The Sunday Telegraph about whether the design of any of Australia's bank notes were changed in response to Gillette-Rothschild's scheme.
The new version of the $5 note, which has more security features, was released on August 31, 2016, followed by the new $10 note on September 20, 2017. A new $50 note is scheduled to be released in October.
Independently of the court case, The Sunday Telegraph viewed videos on the RBA's website that detail how bank notes are made. The RBA did not respond to questions asking if the videos would be removed.
Gillette-Rothschild used fake names to buy three commercial printers for $80,000, thousands of dollars of UV ink and almost 200kg of specialised plastic.
Three years after he made the counterfeit notes, authorities have clawed back almost $850,000, meaning there is still about $150,000 unaccounted for. The dollar amount equates to the RBA recovering 16,990 individual fake $50 bills.
The figure is 81 per cent of the total number of counterfeit $50 notes seized in Australia in 2016-17.
When contacted, Gillette-Rothschild's lawyer Peter Katsoolis said: "My client was very satisfied with the result and accepts the court's decision."
The RBA's counterfeit analysis team said in court documents that the fake notes were "high-quality reproductions" that "could only be produced using specialised equipment which required ... specific skills and knowledge".
The RBA also said the fake notes "simulated most overt features of genuine banknotes ... and may not be detected as counterfeit by members of the public, even with close inspection". His operation was slick and Gillette-Rothschild knew it.
In a conversation with his co-accused, Danqing Xu, on March 15, 2014, Gillette-Rothschild told his mate about "an article" he was reading, court documents said.
The article was about "changing 5s and 10s", which the documents said was a reference to "the RBA needing to make changes to Australian notes".
Gillette-Rothschild said the article "related to the massive spike (in the seizure of counterfeit notes) in 2014". Xu replied: "You should feel proud of yourself ... f...ed up the economy hard ... changing the largest continent on Earth's notes".
Gillette-Rothschild replied: "I am ... I am proud".
Gillette-Rothschild set up fake companies and used fake names to buy three commercial printers, UV inks and 196kg of propylene film between December 2013 and June 2014.
He then set to work on the scheme he later told police "he was expecting to make a million dollars from".
Between March and July 2014, Gillette-Rothschild sent a series of text messages to several associates where he referred to "printing cheeseburgers" ($50 notes) and "making pizzas" (printing counterfeit money), court documents said.
On June 12, 2014, Gillette-Rothschild sent a text to an associate asking if they were interested in helping to speed up the operation by working on the printing while he slept.
"(Gillette-Rothschild) said he had streamlined the process of pizza cooking and that it was '1 minute training'," the court documents said.
"(He) said it was all done by sitting in a leather office chair."
The 34-year-old also asked if another person would be interested in working 12-hour shifts, so the printing could run 24 hours a day.
Gillette-Rothschild initially set up the scheme using a commercial printer, which he bought for $10,000 from a Hornsby printing company in December 2013. The Sunday Telegraph has agreed not to identify the model of printers used.
On February 7, 2014, he used a fake name to buy a second printer, for $24,000, from a printing company in North Rocks.
Two weeks later he upgraded his equipment but also put the police on his tail thanks to a careless action.
He traded in both printers and paid an extra $33,000 for a superior one. The salesman was cleaning one of the trade-ins when a clear plastic sheet featuring an "image of an Australian banknote" fell out, court documents said.
It was handed in to police.
The Australian Federal Police commenced Operation Arche in March 2015 after it received a referral from the RBA. Heavily armed officers arrested Gillette-Rothschild on September 2, 2016, during a raid on at a house in Tregear.
Between May and June 2014, court documents said Gillette-Rothschild, using a fake name and business name, bought and ordered more than $12,000 worth of UV inks from a commercial printing company in Rhodes.
And he ordered 196kg of polypropylene film over the phone from a national supplier between April and June 2014, the documents said.
After printing the $50 notes between March and July 2014, Gillette-Rothschild needed to convert the fake cash into real money.
The court documents said he flew four Korean nationals to Sydney. Each was given a suitcase containing up to $100,000 in counterfeit notes and told to "get change at retail stores", court documents said.
However, on March 16, 2016, police intercepted a phone call between Gillette-Rothschild and Xu.
Gillette-Rothschild pleaded guilty to making about $1 million in counterfeit notes. Xu was given a 12-month suspended jail sentence on October 11, 2017, after being convicted on a charge of giving information to counterfeit money.