Online counterfeit sellers plead guilty

Gavel and judge

A Thornbury man who appeared before Bristol Magistrates’ Court has been fined £790 after pleading guilty to three offences of selling and possessing counterfeit fitness box sets and trainers.

The Beachbody branded disc sets and counterfeit Adidas trainers were being sold by Lee Allen, of Hay Fields, Thornbury who appeared at court on Friday 21 July. Allen was originally caught selling the box sets in 2013 following an online trawl by investigators along with another counterfeiter of the same products, Darren Morgan, of Choke Walk, Brislington. He also pleaded guilty to similar offences under the Trade Marks Act before Bristol Magistrates’ Court last Friday.

Morgan was ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £1,000 in costs and victim surcharges after pleading guilty to nine charges of selling and possessing for sale counterfeit Beachbody products, Ray Ban sunglasses and Mayfair cigarettes.

The two men had been investigated separately by brand representatives for Beachbody who had initially made test purchases over a period of time.

In court it was disclosed that Allen had been selling counterfeit Beachbody items through Gumtree at least since 2013. Undercover investigators had even met him in person in a Bristol car park to buy one counterfeit Beachbody product. Between 2013 and 2015 he had been served with two ‘cease and desist’ letters by representatives of Beachbody.

Morgan was picked up by the same investigation into counterfeit Beachbody products which he was selling on Facebook using false identities. He was traced to the Brislington address via his PayPal and banking records that were used for the sales.

South Gloucestershire Council’s Trading Standards team executed warrants at the addresses of both men in September 2015 and detained quantities of counterfeit goods from both premises, along with laptops, phones and relevant paperwork.

Around 70 suspected counterfeit items were detained from Morgan’s house, along with 10,000 counterfeit cigarettes which were claimed to be the Mayfair brand. From a room in the house which he used as an office, paperwork was discovered including receipts and customer orders suggesting a lucrative cash sales side to Morgan’s enterprise.

Morgan was again caught selling counterfeit Beachbody items via Facebook less than a month after Trading Standards executed the warrant at his home address.

PayPal records established that Morgan sold 156 Beachbody products UK-wide between January and October 2015 alone, grossing over £5,400.

A quantity of counterfeit Adidas footwear was also seized from the home address of Lee Allen, where Trading Standards also discovered the ‘cease and desist’ letters that had been sent to him, along with hand written orders for local customers, again suggesting a cash sales side to his enterprise.

As part of the successful prosecution of both men, the court also ordered all of the items that we detained from Morgan and Allen to be destroyed.

Cllr Heather Goddard, Cabinet Member for Communities and Tourism, said: “Selling counterfeit items is a criminal offence for which you can be successfully prosecuted and fined. Therefore this case should act as a deterrent to anyone thinking of running a similar business.”

Neil Derrick, Senior Fair Trade Officer for South Gloucestershire Council Trading Standards, added: “Investigators are actively monitoring Facebook and other online sales platforms and the use of false identities will not prevent us from bringing offenders to justice, as this case demonstrates.”