The Lavender Hill Mob
Scotland Yard

Scotland Yard investigators broke up the Lavender Hill Mob's counterfeiting ring during Operation Mermaid in the late 1990s.

WireImage/Getty Images

In addition to having arguably the coolest name of any counterfeiting ring, Great Britain's Lavender Hill Mob was also the most prolific. The mob was fronted by Stephen Jory and Kenneth Mainstone, an "old school rogue" and a retired printer, respectively [source: Art Fake].

In the early 1990s, Jory and Mainstone got together with several other men and began printing fake pounds sterling notes, which had a face value of around 50 million pounds [source: BBC]. The gang also made extra money by printing fake stamps and selling them.

The gang came under scrutiny after an accomplice had a run-in with police. It's reasonable to assume that they would've attracted attention regardless; Jory was already a well-known counterfeiter credited with pioneering the knock-off perfume market. Despite their demonstrated skill, Scotland Yard would take the entire gang down one by one in a sting called Operation Mermaid. Jory and three other members confessed; Jory received an eight-year prison sentence. Mainstone and another accomplice stood trial and were convicted. As a result of the Mob's exploits, the Bank of England changed the design of its 20-pound note to include more security features.

In the tradition of Stephen Burroughs, Stephen Jory wrote several books about his criminal past, including a bestselling memoir called "Funny Money" [source: Willis]. He died in 2006.