A prosecution brought by Southwark Council has resulted in a four-year prison sentence for a man who operated a fraudulent business selling fake DVDs and footcare products.
Karate teacher Stephen Gostling of Beckenham pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering, in addition to other offences relating to the distribution of counterfeit goods, and was sentenced at the Inner London Crown Court on September 21.
In total he was guilty to nine offences under the Fraud Act, Proceeds of Crimes Act and Trade Marks Act. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment for each count, to be served concurrently.
His online business had sales in excess of £500,000.
In sentencing, Mr Recorder Dawson said: “You were engaging in fraud to a significant level and only an immediate, custodial sentence is justified.”
Gostling went to considerable lengths to avoid detection while running his criminal enterprise from home. Southwark Council identified 22 eBay accounts, 28 PayPal accounts and 31 bank accounts, which he’d set up using 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: a self-storage unit in Beckenham and three nearby residential addresses in Penge and South Norwood.
The police and Bromley and Croydon Trading Standards supported the execution of the warrants.
During this operation, some 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.
Cllr Darren Merrill, Cabinet Member for a Safer, Cleaner Borough, said: “This sentence should serve as a grave warning that the Courts see DVD piracy and counterfeiting for what it is – fraud. It’s a fraud on customers and a fraud on our film industries, which makes a significant contribution to the UK economy.
“Gostling went to great lengths to disguise the fact he was making money from duping thousands of customers into buying dodgy DVDs. I am pleased that thanks to the investigative skills of our trading standards team the business was halted and any profits he made are likely be confiscated.”