A dealer in fake designer goods brought to justice by Cheshire East Council has been told by a court to hand over £5,000 or face jail.
Tracey Bell, 53, who owns and runs Alsager Tanning Studio, in Station Road, Alsager, sold counterfeit designer goods with an estimated genuine value of £100,000.
Items included designer label jewellery and watches, phone accessories, make-up, bags and clothing, footwear, perfume, sunglasses and headphones. The fake goods were labelled under exclusive marques including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Beats.
Goods were acquired during a test purchase operation conducted by Cheshire East Council officers, who found counterfeit items on display in the studio. Further counterfeit goods were found on the premises as well as counterfeit items being offered for sale online via Facebook.
Chester Crown Court, sitting last September, imposed a four-week prison sentence for each of four offences, to serve concurrently, suspended for 12 months and also imposed a six-month supervision order.
Cheshire East trading standards, which brought the prosecution, subsequently launched a financial investigation which led to a proceeds of crime confiscation hearing at Chester Crown Court last week (20 July 2018).
Bell, of Rode Heath, was given three months to pay a total of £5,220.74 under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 or face a default sentence of three months in prison.
Councillor Janet Clowes, Cheshire East’s cabinet member responsible for communities, said: “Although buying a fake designer handbag, watch or sunglasses might be seen as a ‘victimless’ way to get something desirable on the cheap, the money made from the trade in these types of goods is often used to fund significant criminal activity and impacts genuine business. Such goods are also often unsafe and pose a significant safety risk.
“Cheshire East Council is acutely aware of the destructive effect that organised crime can have in communities, aware too that illicit trade is often a significant funding stream for these groups. We welcome intelligence provided from the local community – as such information is the lifeblood of enforcement, protecting consumers and legitimate business across Cheshire East.
“While our trading standards team will continue to do everything in its power to prosecute and recover the profits made by organised criminals, people across Cheshire East should also be aware of the ways in which they can assist in cutting off this funding at source.”
For more information on consumer safety, trading standards and to report suspicious or fraudulent activity, visit the council’s website at: www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/tradingstandards
Or ring the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 040506.