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Forged £50 note scammers struck at 15 businesses along A9 in Inverness, Evanton, Alness, Invergordon, Tain and Brora, sheriff court hears

By Court Reporter

Tain Sheriff Court...Picture: Callum Mackay. Image No..
Tain Sheriff Court...Picture: Callum Mackay. Image No..

A GANG defrauded Highland businesses to the tune of hundreds of pounds in a forged note scam, a court heard.

The four strong gang – all from the same family – travelled up the A9 from Inverness to Brora making small purchases with forged £50 notes and pocketing the change. Fifteen businesses ranging from restaurants to hotels, shops and supermarkets suffered losses.

The money was never recovered, Tain Sheriff Court was told. Later, £12,000 in forged notes were found rolled up in a toilet roll holder and stuffed in a vent in the 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 on Monday 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 in 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.”

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” but a “foot soldier in an operation arranged by others”. He had been in a desperate situation financially and was driven to it.

Defence agent Will Young, for the youngest member of the gang, Martin Docherty, said he had moved from Ireland to the UK aged 16 to find work and became involved in the scam because of his “immaturity”.

Sheriff Robert Macdonald placed both Michael junior and Martin Docherty on a community payback 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 said: “The extent of [the offence] 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 reports.

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