Lancashire Criminals Locked-Up For Amassing Thousands From Illegally Copied Games
Three jailed after North West counterfeiting conspiracy exposed
Friday 25th May/... Ringleaders of a games, music and film counterfeiting scam have been jailed for conspiracy to defraud after amassing tens of thousands of pounds through the illegal sale of counterfeit games, CDs and DVDs.
Eight defendants in total were brought before His Honour Judge Morrow QC at Liverpool Crown Court on Monday 21st May and all pleaded guilty at the first opportunity before sentencing was carried out. Ringleaders Barry Powell, 29, of Ormskirk, Lancashire and Mark Quincey of Skelmersdale, Lancashire were imprisoned for 12 and 15 months respectively for their role in the six-month scam that also involved an extensive benefit fraud. A nine-month sentence was also handed out to fellow ringleader Sarah Haynes, also of Skelmersdale, a mother of two.
Powell, Haynes and Quincey were sentenced on the basis that they were the organisers of the operation. The judge described them as having played their roles "willingly and enthusiastically". Powell and Hayes are the parents of two children aged one and two years. While suspended sentences were mooted the judge was clearly of the opinion that deterrent sentences were required in order to convey an appropriate message to copiers of illegal product.
The court heard that the criminal operation functioned as a well-organised illegal business and was run from the ringleaders' premises. The business generated revenue in excess of £40,000 in criminal proceeds during a six-month operation supplying local markets and car boot sales. The defendants also illegally claimed £20,000 in state benefits with the likelihood of the convicted losing all their assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act (2002).
In handing down the sentence, Judge Morrow QC, said: "I want to send a deterrence message to any people who may think counterfeiting is an easy way to make a lot of money."
Of the remaining five Skelmersdale-based "soldiers", Philip Brockelhurst, 20, was handed three months detention in a Young Offenders Institute for conspiracy to defraud (suspended); Gary Clark was handed a similar three months suspended sentence; and Christopher Haynes, 21, and Susan Powel, 32, were ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work in respect of the conspiracy to defraud. Elvio Perestrello, the fifth "soldier" was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work in respect of the conspiracy to defraud.
After a joint investigation led by ELSPA and film industry enforcement body FACT, UK record industry body the BPI brought a private prosecution, together with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The sentences were the first handed down since on of the biggest multi-agency anti-counterfeiting police operations, Operation Zealot, was carried out in March 2006, where 29 people in total were arrested.
Michael Rawlinson, managing director of ELSPA, commented: "ELSPA would like to thank everyone involved 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 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."
Kieron Sharp, FACT Director General, said: "This was an organised criminal network operating across a large area and generating sizeable profits from its illegal activities. There is often a strong association from the sale of stolen film product such as pirate DVDs with other criminality and we are grateful for the work done by the Department for Work and Pensions, Lancashire and Merseyside Police and our music and games industry colleagues in targeting and bring to justice these individuals."
BPI Chief Executive, Geoff Taylor, said: "Music fans should not be taken in. Buying illegally copied CDs from these stalls not only cheats artists and the record labels that invest in them, it also helps fund their criminality."
Department for Work and Pensions anti-fraud Minister, James Plaskitt, added: "This is an excellent example of our success at tackling benefit fraud when we work closely with our partners. No ifs, No buts - all benefit theft is crime and those found breaking the law face serious consequences."
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 £540 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/Laura West
Tel: 01462 456780
Fax: 01462 456781
Email: email@example.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Issued by: Barrington Harvey, Trooper's Yard, Bancroft, Hitchin SG5 1JW