This successful prosecution followed a covert operation by Surelock, working on behalf of TRAP (Trade Mark and Rights Holders Against Piracy) identifying eBay sites and making test purchases of our clients’ counterfeit merchandise, then working with Plymouth Trading Standards to identify the offenders and raid the premises
This is just a fraction of the thousands of fake garments including One Direction tops offered for sale to unsuspecting customers over eBay.
Trading standards seized the haul and a specialist printer from a Plymouth shop.
But thousands of shirts and hooded tops, mostly bearing counterfeit logos for the boy band, had already been sold over the previous three years.
Defendants Kenneth Colley, aged 43, Jason Ross, aged 45, and Anna Strzelecka, aged 40, and now deceased ringleader Trevor Brice made an estimated £140,000, Plymouth Crown Court heard.
Judge Ian Lawrie handed the trio suspended prison sentences with unpaid work.
He said: “I take the view that Mr Brice was the brains behind this operation. He was the one who thought of it and got it started.
“He went to his friends for help and support. You all played a central role in a large operation.”
Judge Lawrie had earlier admitted to the court that he had not heard of One Direction, the world’s biggest boy band.
He added that he preferred the classical composer Bach.
But the case was not stopped or delayed because of that, as reported by some media outlets.
Julia Cox, prosecuting for Plymouth City Council, said that just under £140,000 went through the gang’s eBay accounts to be transferred into their own accounts from 2009 until 2012.
She added that test purchasers acting for One Direction bought some of the items in May 2012 and discovered them to be fake.
Trading standards then started watching a shop unit in Embankment Road linked to one of the defendants.
Miss Cox said officers raided the address and seized specialist computing equipment and a printing press.
She added that another man called Trevor Brice was arrested alongside the defendants but died before he was prosecuted.
Miss Cox said that One Direction tops and T-shirts were sold at a price of £19.99. Boy London garments were also sold.
The exact number of fake goods sold in court was not revealed in court.
Colley admitted he had even been to India to source material.
Ali Rafati, for Colley, said he was on benefits and the sole carer of a ten-year-old child.
Colley had told the court that he allowed Brice to use his accounts for money and did not realise the scale of the operation.
Nick Lewin, for Ross, added that the garments were of good quality and eBay was full of messages from grateful customers.
He added that he was involved in the long conspiracy for only six months.
Michael Green, for Strzelecka, said her main role was to allow the use of her eBay account.
He added she was the mother to Colley’s young child.
Judge Lawrie said: “I am confident that these defendants are unlikely to come before these courts again.”
Colley and Strzelecka were both handed 16-month prison sentences, suspended for two years, with 150 hours unpaid work.
Ross was given an eight-month prison sentence suspended for the same period. He must do 75 hours unpaid work.
Colley, of Risdon Avenue, Prince Rock, and Strzelecka, of nearby Embankment Road, pleaded guilty to selling goods bearing false trademarks between July 2009 and July 2012.
Colley alone admitted possession of goods bearing false trademarks for sale. He also pleaded guilty to applying false trademarks to goods.
He also admitted possession of the printing unit specifically designed to label clothing with a copy of a registered trademark.
Colley, Strzelecka, and Ross, of Penmere Drive, Newquay, all pleaded guilty to possession, conversion or transfer of criminal property, namely the proceeds from selling the fakes.
All three now face further hearings under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover their profits from the illegal operation.
Alex Fry, Trading Standards Manager, Plymouth City Council said after the case: “Genuine businesses including local shops are unable to compete with sellers of fake goods so we urge consumers not to buy counterfeit goods.
“While it is tempting to buy cheap products, consumers are actually being ripped off and need to be aware of the consequences of piracy and counterfeit goods. Many counterfeit goods are potentially dangerous to consumers such as electrical equipment, toys, personal care products and medicines.