Police have arrested two men in the southern city of Arad for allegedly counterfeiting hundreds of thousands of NIS 5 coins ($1.5) that are virtually indiscernible from the originals, Hadashot news reported Sunday.
The two men, one of them a 40-year-old engraver from the port city of Ashdod, were running the workshop out of an innocuous-looking industrial building. They are suspected of importing special machines and an alloy, which was used to forge five-shekel coins and also ancient coins he may have sold to collectors, police told the channel. The second man, 27, helped him distribute the coins.
“He used special materials that made it hard even for Bank of Israel staff to discern [the fakes] from authentic coins,” Warrant Officer Asher Elimelech, who heads the police’s southern district fraud investigations unit, told Hadashot news. “The forging job was done with a very high quality.”
“These factories could have been used to produce hundreds of thousands of fake coins and to damage the economy by millions of shekels,” he added. “We’ve never encountered such quality forging of five-shekel coins, or of any coin. Usually it’s ten-shekel coins that are forged.”
The machines produced one coin every three seconds, the report said. Each coin cost the man NIS 0.9 to produce, and he sold them for NIS 2.5 apiece. Police estimated that he managed to produce tens of thousands of coins that are by now filling up cash boxes in markets, shops and taxis, among others.
Police said its fraud unit investigators began monitoring the man’s activity after receiving a tip on the illegal activity, and that forces raided his factories last week, catching him red-handed.
Officers suspect the coins were ordered by a senior organized crime official whose name the engraver was reluctant to reveal to the investigators.
The engraver and his aide have been arrested and will be indicted over the next few days, the report said.