£100k fake DVD racket man jailed
A fraudster caught buying and selling bogus DVDs in a scam worth nearly £100,000 on ebay has been jailed.
Paul Foster imported fake box sets of hit TV series from China and delivered to his home in Penkridge.
He then sold thousands of the DVDs on the auction website without the necessary consent of trademark owners, Stafford Crown Court heard.
The 51-year-old swindler also attempted to reduce the amount of import duty paid on the illicit goods by falsely claiming the packages of DVDs contained photo albums.
The titles included Downton Abbey, Mr Selfridge, House of Cards and How I Met Your Mother.
Despite it being his first offence, Judge Mark Eades sentenced Foster to 16 months in prison, citing the scale of his deception.
He had previously pleaded guilty to one count of participating in a fraudulent business and nine counts of possessing goods with a false trade mark for sale or hire.
The court heard Foster had been a legitimate trader selling films since 1998 until July 2014.
But prosecutor Tony Watkin said he then shifted to a 'large scale' fraud operation which began to unravel after just three months when a courier reported concerns about packages being delivered to Foster's home in Walhouse Drive.
The firm intercepted a subsequent package in which 815 bogus DVD box sets were discovered.
Foster was reported to Staffordshire Trading Standards which searched the address in January last year and recovered 1,816 box sets - including 54 different titles - worth around £40,000.
Investigators trawled through Foster's emails which showed he had sourced the products from China and made orders totalling in excess of £8,500.
Via Ebay he recorded sales totalling around £60,000.
Mr Watkin told the court Foster arranged for some of the fake DVDs to be delivered to his unknowing mother-in-law and brother in an attempt to throw the authorities off the scent.
He said: "The defendant even attempted to negotiate a deal with his supplier in which he said if goods were seized by customs the supplier would have to bare 40 percent of the losses.
"Also interesting is the prices at which he sold the DVDs. They did not differ hugely from the price of legitimate DVDs. We sometimes hear that buyers knew they were getting a fake product, but this is not one of those cases."
Foster, who represented himself in court, said he only benefitted from up to £20,000 in profits from the goods.
"£40,000 of stock was taken away so I lost all of that. It was only £60,000 that I sold on Ebay and if you take off VAT and tax it comes down to around £15,000 or £20,000 in profit," he added.
Judge Mark Eades said: "You went into this operation with your eyes wide open and you did it out of greed. This was fraudulent through and through.
"It is not just the DVD and trademark aspects but you were also seeking to avoid import duty by having the goods misdescribed."
Prosecutors will now seek to reclaim some of Foster's profits under Proceeds of Crime legislation.
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