The "Fruit machine scam"

[Sources: Reading Evening Post, 30 January 2002; Evening Times, Glasgow, 26 January 2002; Reading Chronicle, 30 January 2002]

Six men were tried at Hull Crown Court in January 2002 for their parts in a "scam" to illegally obtain the jackpots of fruit machines from across Britain. The scam involved using counterfeit one-pound coin slugs, skeleton keys and drilling holes in the machines to reach their cash boxes. The police estimated that the gang obtained about 450,000. They caused Rank Leisure Machine Services to spend 500,000 repairing and replacing machines from Devon to Scotland.

The Rotherham based ringleader of the gang paid 10,800 to a Sheffield engineering company to manufacture 90,000 brass slugs of the same size and weight as the one-pound coin. That worked out at about 12 pence per slug. The prosecutor stated, "It is impossible to say how far these men used these coins". 3,000 of the slugs were found in the car of one of the gang members who was from Reading. This man was accused of putting up the money for the slugs. Another man from Reading was seen by police using the slugs in gambling machines. 13,000 of the slugs were recovered from the River Thames at Pangborne. This was not far from the Reading homes of these two gang members.

A fourth member of the gang originated from Glasgow and the fifth from Sheffield. Also on trial was a Sheffield based slot machine engineer who was bribed by the gang to provide information on the locations of a particular make of slot machine. The Rotherham based gangleader was sentenced to 21 months in gaol. The first Reading man and the Glasgow man were gaoled for 9 months. The second Reading man was gaoled for four months. The Sheffield man and the Sheffield slot machine engineer were sentenced to 180 and 240 hours community service respectively.


It is assumed that the brass slugs did not have any designs on their faces and edges. They appear to have functioned correctly in the slot machines. To say the least, it was naive of the Sheffield engineering company to produce these slugs. The cost of purchasing the slugs helps to give an appreciation of the cost of producing brass blanks for struck counterfeit coins.


Copyright Robert Matthews 2006

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This page was last updated in February 2006