A SHOPKEEPER grabbed a bag of counterfeit clothes and ran from his store after being caught selling fake One Direction sweatshirts in Torquay.
Joshua Lowles, 24, fled trading standard officers who were bagging evidence of illegal selling at his shop on Victoria Parade in Torquay.
They had collected a range of items being sold by Ace Customised Clothing & Printing Company, including sweatshirts, T-shirts and mugs adorned with images of Harry Styles and bandmates, Olly Murs and Justin Bieber.
Lowles, director of the business, returned to the store with the bag 10 minutes later saying: “That’s how easy it is, you should never take your eyes off it.”
His antics did not impress magistrates in Torquay who ordered him and his company to pay fines and costs of £3,800.
Lowles, of Mallock Road, Torquay, pleaded guilty to four offences of illegal trading including misleading customers and obstructing a trading standards officer from Torbay Council.
The company admitted eight offences of displaying or selling counterfeit goods.
Suspicions were raised in August 2012 when an inspection found counterfeit Monster Energy sweatshirts being sold at the shop.
Huw James, senior trading standards officer, made a test purchase of a hoodie for £14.99.
After examination the garment was found to be counterfeit and the shop did not have the trademark owner’s consent to display or sell it.
Jeremy Shute, prosecutor for the council, told magistrates that officers met Lowles during a subsequent visit but that he gave them false information about the name of the business.
“This was somewhat indicative of Mr Lowles initial attitude because he was unwilling to allow Mr James and his colleague to look around the shop and inspect his stock,” Mr Shute said.
A further 15 Monster Energy sweatshirts were seized.
But despite the threat of prosecution the business carried on selling counterfeit items.
In August this year counterfeit One Direction clothing was displayed at the shop.
Mr James made a visit and found sweatshirts, jackets, T-shirts and mugs displaying Harry Styles, One Direction, Monsters University, Olly Murs, Despicable Me and Justin Bieber.
Lowles told him: “Stop the small talk, take whatever you want.”
But as the officer started to pack away the evidence Lowles made a run for it.
Mr Shute said: “The process was suddenly interrupted by Lowles who, without warning, grabbed the bag containing the seized items and ran out of the shop.
“Mr James did not believe anything could be gained by giving chase and fortunately, within 10 minutes, Mr Lowles returned to the shop, dropped the bag at the feet of the officers and said ‘that’s how easy it is, you should never take your eyes off it’.
All seized items were sent to the trademark holders, including Bieber Time Holdings LLC, Disney Enterprises Inc, Simco Limited, Monster Energy Company and Oliver Murs.
They all confirmed they were counterfeit and the shop did not have permission to sell them.
They said the goods were of poor quality and selling them had the potential for customers to be misled and put at risk the reputations of the trade mark owners and genuine retailers.
It is not known what profit Lowles made as a result of the business selling the clothing.
The defendant had no previous convictions.
Afterwards a spokesman for Kitsons, on behalf of Lowles, said ACE clothing is a ‘reputable business’ and ‘the overwhelming majority’ of its products are trademark compliant.
He said a few articles were sold ‘at a price that matches the quality’ and Lowles was confident that the public knew what they were buying.
“Sadly in not having authorisation to use the ‘Monster’ or ‘One Direction’ logos ACE has broken the law.
“For that our client apologises and reiterates that they will not knowingly repeat this error.
“Our client ran out of the shop in a panic when faced with the trading standards officer and bitterly regrets his actions.”
Cllr Robert Excell, Torbay Council’s executive lead for safer communities, said: “We welcome the outcome of this case.
“We work hard to protect the trading position of legitimate businesses to ensure they are supported to grow and develop and we will intervene with those traders who flout the law.”
From Torquay Herald Express: