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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russians Arrested on Banknote Fraud

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Three Russian tourists were arrested Wednesday after they allegedly circulated fake Deutsche marks that actually were crudely modified banknotes from Brazil and Peru.


The three -- Irina Gorlova, 25, her twin sister Marina, and Grigory Dobshits, 29 -- sobbed through a police news conference where they were told they faced long prison terms if found guilty.


"It is a great mistake and I want to go back to my mother," said Dobshits, who earlier swore and shook his manacled hands at cameramen and reporters. He also complained he had not been allowed to meet any Russian consular official.


All three suspects appeared tired and emotional. Police explained that they had given them whiskey in an effort to relax them because they were so upset at their arrests.


Police displayed the fake banknotes the three allegedly put together using a razor blade and rub-on transfer lettering.


The name of the country and the currency on the original Brazilian and Peruvian banknotes had been scraped off, and replaced with the words "BUNDES" and "MARKS."


Police said the two Russian women used a fake 500-mark note -- nominally worth $340 -- to purchase three scarves from a street market vendor in Bangkok's Patpong nightlife district Monday night. The vendor returned them 7,000 baht ($280) in change. But the next day, when he attempted to change the banknote at a bank, he found out it was a fake.


He spread the news among other vendors and Tuesday night, when Irina and Dobshits tried to make a purchase at another stall, their money was refused, police said. Vendors held the two Russians until police arrived.


Police took the two back to their hotel, where Marina also was arrested, and 18 Brazilian and 17 Peruvian banknotes -- along with equipment for modifying them -- were seized. Police said they also found a small quantity of marijuana.


Police said the maximum penalty for counterfeiting Thai currency is life in prison, but the three would face about 25 years if convicted of counterfeiting foreign currency.


They also faced charges of possession of marijuana.


Their hometowns were not known.


Tourism officials say Thailand is the favorite destination in Southeast Asia for Russian tourists, more than 43,000 of whom visited the country last year.