28th November 2023

Pirate DVD seller ordered to pay up

A man who sold counterfeit DVDs has been ordered to pay back more than £216,000.

By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
Our Trading Standards team had done an amazing job in investigating a complex case that impacted 1,000s of consumers

A London man who sold pirated DVDs has been ordered to pay a confiscation order of £216,418 in one of the biggest Proceeds of Crime cases ever brought forward by Southwark Council.

Stephen Anthony Clarke Gostling (58), of Birkbeck Road, Beckenham, was originally jailed in September 2021 for operating a fraudulent online business with sales in excess of £500,000. At the time, he pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering under the Fraud Act, Proceeds of Crime Act and Trade Marks Act, in addition to other offences relating to the distribution of counterfeit goods.

During its investigation, Southwark Council Trading Standards identified 22 eBay accounts, 28 PayPal accounts and 31 bank accounts which Gostling had set up using some 30 different names. Gostling used these to sell counterfeit products, process payment of fraudulent sales and launder the proceeds of his criminality for more than five years.

Anti-piracy investigators from the Film Content Protection Agency, working on behalf of the Film Distributors’ Association, undertook test purchases of a Batman v Superman DVD and a Harry Potter box set. Both were confirmed as counterfeit. Financial checks with PayPal, eBay and receiving banks led Southwark Trading Standards to an address outside the borough in Penge, SE20.

Southwark Council executed entry warrants at four addresses linked to Gostling on the same day in March 2018: two self-storage units in Beckenham and two nearby residential addresses in Penge and South Norwood. The police and Bromley and Croydon Trading Standards supported the execution of the warrants. The police then searched a further residential address in Beckenham, with the assistance of the Southwark Trading Standards team.

During this operation, 615 fake DVDs were seized from the self-storage unit, along with 633 fake Scholl Pedicure rollers. At the same time, 2,208 DVDs and a number of laptops were seized from the rented house where Gostling lived and ran his operations.

At a confiscation hearing at the Inner London Crown Court on 17 November 2023 it was ruled that Gostling’s criminal benefit amounted to approximately £742,044. The confiscation order was based on the available assets and set by the court as £216,418. Failure to pay back the sum will result in prison time.

Councillor Evelyn Akoto, Southwark Council Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “The significant Proceeds of Crime Order highlights the scale of Mr Gostling’s criminal operation.

“The allure of buying cheaper goods might be tempting, but the hidden costs are severe from funding serious organised crime to flooding communities with dangerous items. Our Trading Standards team had done an amazing job in investigating a complex case that impacted 1,000s of consumers. I hope the result serves as a reminder that we are committed to safeguarding consumer rights and will go to great lengths to bring illicit retailers to  justice.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *