Tuesday 11th March/... A Wirral-based man has been sentenced to four years imprisonment for making and selling illegally copied games, films and music, following an investigation by Wirral Trading Standards and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Gordon Cullen, 46, of Greenbank Road, West Kirby, Wirral who regularly travelled first class to Thailand also pleaded guilty at Mold Crown Court, North Wales, on Thursday 6th March, to having claimed nearly £69,000 in Income Support and other benefits while living a life of luxury.
Lengthy surveillance, including several test purchases, were carried out by ELSPA (the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association), film and music investigators at Coed Mawr market in Flintshire where Cullen and his daughter, Pauline, 25, of Beechwood, Wirral, ran stalls under a large banner headed 'The DVD man - for all your top quality DVDs at rock bottom prices'.
The Cullen's were charging £5 each with discounted prices of three for £10 or seven for £20. All of the games and DVDs and sold were illegal copies.
In October 2006 a series of coordinated raids, codenamed 'Operation Buzzard' - involving ELSPA investigators, Trading Standards Officers from Wirral and Flintshire Councils, DWP investigators and representatives of the music industry - took place throughout North Wales, Cheshire and Wirral designed to disrupt the supply of counterfeit goods and detect organised benefit fraud. Both of the Cullen's homes were raided by Trading Standards and Merseyside Police. Equipment used in the manufacture of illegally copied games and films and large quantities of counterfeit goods, together with financial evidence, was seized.
As well as receiving 32 months for counterfeiting offences Cullen was also sentenced to 16 months for benefit fraud. Additionally, following a lengthy financial investigation by the Regional Asset Recovery Team, Judge Hughes also imposed a £190,000 confiscation order against Gordon Cullen based on his illegal profits. If he fails to pay this sum in six months he will be sentenced to a further three years in prison.
Pauline Cullen was sentenced to eight months imprisonment suspended for 18 months and ordered to carry out 150 hours unpaid work to be completed in 18 months.
Michael Rawlinson, managing director of ELSPA, commented: "ELSPA would like to thank everyone involved with Operation Buzzard for their work and helping to protect local traders and the general community from the effects of pirated goods. Our investigators will continue to work closely with other trade bodies and enforcement agencies. The simple fact about piracy of video games, music and films is that it is illegal and punishable by fines, Community Service and jail sentences. No matter which way you look at counterfeiting it is nothing more than theft. Counterfeiters are only out for one thing: money. And because of this consumers who buy counterfeit games have no recourse under law for faulty goods."
Cllr Gill Gardiner, Wirral's Cabinet member for the Environment, said: "This was a lengthy and protracted investigation involving Wirral Trading Standards and the Department of Work and Pensions. This sentence reflects the damage the Cullen's activities caused to legitimate traders in DVDs and computer games. However we aren't resting on our laurels and are targeting more of this illegal activity."
Roy Paul, Senior Operations Manager for Merseyside & Cheshire Trading Standards, said: "This was a most complex and thorough investigation which involved not only highly trained DWP fraud investigators, colleagues from Trading Standards but officers from the Music, Films and Games industry. If you suspect fraud, I would urge you to call the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854 440."
About ELSPA - http://www.elspa.com
ELSPA (The Entertainment & Leisure Software Publishers Association) was founded in 1989 to establish a specific and collective identity for the computer and video games industry. Membership includes almost all companies concerned with the publishing and distribution of interactive leisure software in the UK.
ELSPA's activities include: Official Chart and Industry Reports, Anti-Piracy UK and EU, PR and Communication, Events. More information on all these activities can be found at http://www.elspa.com.
About Software Piracy and its negative impact on both consumers and industry.
ELSPA estimates criminal gain through computer and video games piracy sits at approximately £600 million. Piracy/counterfeiting is illegal and punishable by fines and jail sentences.
The illegal copying of software poses the very real threat of criminal prosecution and a criminal record, as well as the risk of massive personal financial loss under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Consumers have no recourse under law for faulty pirated games, which can damage hardware.
Counterfeited/pirated games are often mixed with obscene or pornographic material.
Local and national jobs are lost as result of pirate operations.
Proven links exist between many organised counterfeiting organisations and dealers in drugs and pornography.
For further information on ELSPA or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Tom Sargent or Laura West
Tel: 01462 456780
Fax: 01462 456781
Issued by: Barrington Harvey, Trooper's Yard, Bancroft, Hitchin SG5 1JW