A teen used a home printer, white paper and tape to produce counterfeit cash in what a judge describes as an “amateurish” scheme run from Rotorua emergency accommodation.
The fake $10, $20 and $50 notes Amaru Ben Rihia-Tipene, 19, helped produce were used to make purchases in Rotorua and Tauranga.
According to a police summary of facts obtained by the Rotorua Daily Post, Rihia-Tipene and another person used a non-commercial printer, ink cartridges, scissors and tape to produce fake money in June and early July.
The notes were printed on ordinary white paper with clear tape-like product used for the clear see-through window in each note, the summary said.
The forged notes were distributed to other people and presented at numerous retail outlets in Rotorua CBD.
On June 25, Rihia-Tipene and an associate used a fake $50 to pay for a $5 drink at a Subway in Tauranga, and received $45 in change.
Shortly after, Rihia-Tipene tried using another fake $50 note to try to make another purchase at the same store but the staff demanded real money.
On July 10, the defendant tried to pay for items at the Lake Road Dairy in Rotorua with $50 worth of fake notes.
When challenged by the dairy owner, Rihia-Tipene ran off.
Rihia-Tipene pleaded guilty to a raft of charges, including making forged banknotes with intent to defraud, possession of implements (a printer) to make counterfeit notes and possessing forged banknotes.
The forgery and implements charges both have a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and seven years for possession.
Rihia-Tipene was sentenced in the Rotorua District Court on Friday for those offences and eight others he had admitted.
Those charges were stealing $35 of groceries from Pak N’Save in Rotorua, theft of a bag of items worth $150 from a car, possessing instruments to convert cars, possessing a knife in a public place, and two charges each of wilful trespass and attempting to take a car.
He also was sentenced for unlawfully carrying and presenting an imitation pistol in an incident that sparked an armed police callout in Rotorua on September 13.
The defendant’s lawyer Tumunako Silveira told the court his client had already spent a “punitive” three months in custody on remand and sending him back to prison would only expose him to people involved in this type of criminal behaviour.
Silveira said Rihia-Tipene was a “young man with no prior convictions” and genuinely remorseful for his offending.
Judge Mills said he did not like sending young people to prison and had “some sympathy” for Silveira’s submissions.
The judge told Rihia-Tipene his forgery charges were “serious offences” on the face of it but his offending was “amateurish” and “unsophisticated” and the forgery operation was never going to be successfully executed.
The court heard the defendant told police he made the notes because “times were hard”, but the judge said the teen told a pre-sentencing report writer he was “not quite sure why” he got involved.
Judge Mill said he believed Rihia-Tipene had “just tagged along” with others, which led to his criminal offending.
“You are 19 years of age and you are still young. And you have no previous convictions so something has gone terribly wrong.”
Judge Mill said it seemed when Rihia-Tipene’s relationship of two years ended “he just caved in” and put his “own health and well-being” at risk.
“I don’t know exactly what you were thinking. But I just think you weren’t thinking all together very clearly. And it has caused some trouble in the community.”
Judge Mill told Rihia-Tipene he was satisfied he could impose a community-based sentence with conditions.
The judge reduced the sentence to reflect the teen’s youth, guilty pleas, prior good character, and apology for the “stupidity” of his actions.
He sentenced Rihia-Tipene to 12 months of intensive supervision and 120 hours of community work.
The judge warned the teen he must fully comply with his sentence or he could face a prison term of up to 12 months.
How to spot a fake banknote
The Reserve Bank says there are two series of banknotes in circulation – Series 6 with small windows, and the newer Series 7 with a large window.
Windows: Inside the large, clear window of Series 7 is a hologram with a fern and a map of New Zealand and has the same bird featured on the left-hand side of the banknote. There is also an embossed print note value below the hologram. On Series 6, check the two small windows are intact with a fern in one and the note value in the other.
Does it glow: Forgeries glow under ultraviolet light while genuine notes don’t, except for a fluorescent patch on Series 7 showing the note value.
Microtext: Using a magnifying glass, look at the numeral on the front and back of the banknote. There is microtext including “RBNZ” on the front.
Ink runs: There should not be any blotches or running ink.
Hold it up to the light: The small puzzle pieces on the front and back of a Series 7 note form a complete number. On Series 6, there’s a watermark of the late Queen to the right of the feature portrait.
The rough: Polymer banknotes have raised printing which can be felt when you run your fingers over them.
The smooth: The notes are smooth and made of one piece of plastic and they shouldn’t tear easily.
Tilt: The colour of the bird changes when you tilt a Series 7 banknote, with a rolling bar going diagonally across.
Source: Reserve Bank of New Zealand
Sandra Conchie is a senior journalist at the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post who has been a journalist for 24 years. She mainly covers police, court and other justice stories, as well as general news. She has been a Canon Media Awards regional/community reporter of the year.