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A PAIR of counterfeiters who ran a £1 million pound illegal DVD copying operation in Milton Keynes have been jailed for a total of more than three years.
Rosalba Stocec-Bot, a 28-year-old Romanian national, and Achilles Christian Ekedi-Tanenang, aged 36, from Cameroon, had both pleaded guilty to a 10 count indictment of Counterfeiting and Money Laundering, in a previous hearing at Luton Crown Court on June 3rd.
They appeared for sentence at Luton Crown Court on Friday June 25th and Stotec-Bec and Ekendi-Tanenang received 30 months and 15 months respectively.
The extensive investigation into the criminal activities of the defendants was started by Bedford Borough Trading Standards Service, operating on information received by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT).
The investigation uncovered offences in both Bedford and Milton Keynes and was then taken on by Milton Keynes Council’s Trading Standards team, supported by Bedford Borough Trading Standards.
Films being sold included Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, The Hangover and Inglourious Basterds and box sets of TV series Friends, Lost and The Sopranos.
In July 2009, five properties across three counties were raided by Milton Keynes, Bedford Borough and Hertfordshire trading standards teams with support from FACT, ELSPA (Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association), BPI (representing the UK recorded music industry) and local police forces.
The raids at addresses in Milton Keynes unearthed DVD manufacturing sites, with racks of DVD burners capable of producing 150 counterfeit discs in a matter of minutes.
Also at the addresses were over 67,000 discs ready for dispatch. A further 56,000 blank discs and associated material were taken from a storage site rented by Ekedi-Tanenang.
The two defendants were the masterminds behind a hugely successful site which sold counterfeit discs over the internet.
Notebooks found at Stocec-Bot’s house, in Peartree Bridge, Milton Keynes, showed the complexity of the operation, with multiple bank accounts, properties being bought and sold and money being transferred overseas to China and Romania.
The information contained in these books gave Stocec-Bot access to over 50 bank accounts many of which not in her name, allowing her to transfer money between accounts and concealing the trail of criminal profits.
A further investigation is being conducted by the Central Bedfordshire Financial Investigation Unit, a joint initiative between Central Bedfordshire Council and Bedford Borough Council, under the Proceeds of Crime Act. A Confiscation order will be sought to return the criminal proceeds, which are estimated at more than a £1m.
Karen Ford, trading standards manager for Milton Keynes Council, said: “This case, dubbed Operation Troy, was immensely complex in that we have jointly prosecuted the defendants with Bedford Borough Council.
“Many consumers have been buying DVDs, such as Harry Potter, Sex and the City and Take That, from this couple not knowing that they were counterfeit and the industry will have lost huge revenues as a result.”
Kieron Sharp, FACT Director General, added, “After a long and very complex investigation started by FACT’s Internet Investigations team and pursued by Milton Keynes Trading Standards and Central Bedfordshire’s Financial Investigation Unit both of the key criminal masterminds behind an international counterfeiting conspiracy have been given prison sentences.
“This is one of the largest and most complex cases FACT has been involved in.
“The sophisticated nature of the operation was designed to try and hide the ultimate beneficiaries and the money trail led to China and other countries, as well as to money laundering in the UK using a property company as a front.
“The court has sent out a strong message that counterfeiting will be punished both with imprisonment and with eventual serious financial penalties.
“I would like to thank Milton Keynes, Central Bedfordshire and all those involved in this case for their efforts.”