North businesses targeted in forged note scam
A gang ripped off small businesses in the north Highlands to the tune of hundreds of pounds in a forged cheque scam, a court heard.
The four strong gang – all members of the same family – travelled along the A9 from Inverness to Brora making small purchases with forged £50 notes and pocketing the change.
Some 15 businesses ranging from restaurants to hotels, shops and supermarkets suffered losses and the money has never been recovered, Tain Sheriff Court was told.
Police later found £12,000 in forged notes rolled up in a toilet holder and stuffed into a vent in an Inverness hotel room where the four stayed.
Michael senior (27), Patrick (25), Michael junior (23), and Martin (19), all Docherty and all of Boathorse Road, Kidsgrove, Stoke-on-Trent, appeared at Tain Sheriff Court yesterday to admit between them 16 contraventions of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981.
The court was told the four embarked on their journey up the A9 on January 16, 2017, after staying the previous night the Travelodge at Stoneyfield Business Park, Inverness.
Roderick Urquhart, prosecuting, said: “They essentially travelled up the A9 using forged £50 notes to buy cheap articles. There were different permutations as to who went into the shops and passed notes on each occasion.
Various members of the gang called in at businesses in Inverness, Evanton, Alness, Invergordon, Tain and Brora. One of the purchases was two cards for £3.
“As they progressed up the A9 people became suspicious and eventually they were stopped by police towards the end of the journey,” said Mr Urquhart.
“They did not return to the hotel and it was some weeks later that a maintenance engineer checking a vent found £12,000 worth of forged notes rolled up and stuffed in a toilet roll in the extraction fan vent in the room.”
He added: “There is a suggestion that there is someone else behind this and a similar operation occurred elsewhere in the Highlands on the same day.”
Defence agent Neil Wilson, representing Michael Docherty junior, said his client was not the “mastermind” behind the operation but a “foot soldier in an operation arranged by others”. He had been in a desperate situation financially and was driven to take part by the need for money.
Will Young, for the youngest member of the gang Martin Docherty, said he had moved from Ireland to the UK aged 16 to find employment and had become involved in the scam because of his “immaturity”.
Sheriff Robert Macdonald placed both Michael junior and Martin Docherty on a community pay back order requiring them to be under social work supervision for nine months and to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work within six months.
The sheriff told the pair: “It is quite clear that this was a deliberate offence which was carried out for financial gain and the extent of it was such that it would merit a custodial sentence but I am persuaded to give you a community disposal as a direct alternative.”
Sentence against Michael senior and Patrick Docherty was deferred until August 5 for background reports. Bail was continued.