Chippenham shop worker foils London gang with fake £20 notes (From The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald)
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Chippenham shop worker foils London gang with fake £20 notes
10:03am Monday 18th March 2013 in News
An eagle-eyed shop worker who spotted a dodgy £20 note smashed a ring of fraudsters who had come from London to spend their fake money.
The assistant was on the till at SK Fruits in The Bridge, Chippenham, when she realised something was wrong with the bank note she had been handed.
Fearing it was a fake she checked it with a counterfeit currency pen, which showed she was right, and she refused to serve customers Claire Gill, 32, and Aurimas Radzius, 26.
She also called the police the pair were caught in their car, which was parked nearby, with Gill's older sister Valerie, 33, at the wheel.
When the vehicle was searched officers found a further £1,280 of dodgy £20 notes in the door pocket.
The trio have now all received suspended jail term after the court heard the women had children to care for.
But Claire Gill was also told she would not get her Vauxhall Astra back after a judge ruled it be forfeited as it had been used in the crime.
The sisters and Lithuanian Radzius came to Wiltshire from west London in February last year with a 15-year-old girl.
Tessa Hingston, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court that Claire Gill and Radzius went into Peacocks and Savers, in Swindon, where they used fake £20 notes to buy items.
She said they used the large bills to buy small items so they would get the maximum 'clean' change.
The gang then moved on to Chippenham where they continued their fraud at Poundland in the High Street before moving to SK Fruits Miss Hingston said the worker thought the note was 'not quite what she would expect from a £20 note. It seemed too clean and the wrong thickness of paper'.
After checking it with a counterfeit currency pen she refused to accept it and called the police.
Miss Hingston said: "The defendants had left the scene but were sitting in a vehicle outside and were all arrested by the police.
"As a result they didn't have time to agree any type of story as to what they were doing and all gave different versions and led about where they had been."
However CCTV footage and till receipts showed they had been in the four stores passing two notes in one shop and one in the other two.
Valerie, of Isleworth, and Claire Gill and Radzius, who live together at Hounslow, pleaded guilty to delivering counterfeit currency with intent.
The teenager, who is now 16 and had a child while on bail, was initially charged but prosecutors dropped the case against her when the other pleaded guilty.
Dominic Benthall, for Valerie Gill, said his client is the mother and sole carer of five children aged three to 13.
She also has a brother who is on kidney dialysis whose wife is terminally ill with cervical cancer.
Tom Coke-Smyth, for the other two, said Claire Gill was the 'primary carer' for children aged five and ten saying a custodial sentence would have a huge impact on them.
He said in the past she had been forced out of her home by domestic violence and lived in her car for a while.
Radzius, he said, worked as a roofer and had foolishly got involved in the escapade.
Passing sentence, Judge Douglas Field said: "I am quite satisfied that you travelled down from London with a quantity of these counterfeit £20 notes in Claire Gill's car and it is fortunate that you were caught at an early stage.
"The authorities make it quite clear that this sort of offence has to be met with imprisonment.
"I have to decide today whether all or some of should go to prison immediately or whether your sentences of imprisonment should be suspended."
He imposed 12-month jail terms, suspended for a year, and ordered the sisters to observe night time curfews for two months and Radzius to do 130 hours of unpaid work.