A man from Wales has been jailed for eight months and ordered to hand over £71,000 he made from counterfeiting DVDs sold via the internet.
Nigel Thomas appeared at Swansea Crown for sentencing and for the imposition of a Proceeds of Crime Act order on Friday 17th January , having previously pleaded guilty to an offence of participating in a fraudulent business and eight offences of unauthorised possession of counterfeit goods.
The prosecution was brought by Carmarthenshire County Council Trading Standards Service and there was also a claim for £71,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
“Those who commit this sort of crime cost legitimate producers and outlets a great deal of money. It impacts on people’s jobs and livelihoods. The message has to go out that people go to prison and go immediately”
Susan Ferrier, prosecuting, said the offences came to light as a result of the Federation against Copyright Theft becoming aware of certain activities and alerting Trading Standards. In September 2011 the defendant’s home in Bury Street, Llanelli, was searched by Trading Standards Officers assisted by police and FACT investigators. She said: “There was a quite sophisticated operation in the house. There was well organised counterfeiting and the kitchen and bedroom were used for wholesale copying.
“Twenty three thousand copied discs and blanks were seized as well as computers and CD burners.”
Representatives of EMI, Sony and other companies dip sampled the items seized and established that they were counterfeit. Thomas had been copying and counterfeiting feature films, music and games, she said.
James Davies, for Thomas, said the offences were clearly serious enough for a prison sentence but he urged the court to impose a suspended sentence as his client was in poor health and would find prison difficult. He was aged 60, of previous good character and unlikely to commit further offences.
His Honour Judge Paul Thomas QC told Thomas that he had used his home to deliberately commit offences over a long period of time.
“You accept that you received in excess of £100,000 from this illegal activity. The cost to the industry has not been calculated but I suspect it was quite a lot more. You did it with your eyes open.
“Those who commit this sort of crime cost legitimate producers and outlets a great deal of money. It impacts on people’s jobs and livelihoods. The message has to go out that people go to prison and go immediately,” he said. Thomas’s age, previous good character and poor health meant the sentence would be substantially shorter than would otherwise be the case, he added.
Thomas was sentenced to eight months imprisonment, ordered to pay £71,000 Proceeds of Crime, and ordered to forfeit the discs and computer equipment.
Carmarthenshire County Council executive board member for public protection Cllr Jim Jones said: “Counterfeiting costs legitimate businesses dearly and damages the economy. The court has clearly taken these offences very seriously.”
Kieron Sharp, FACT Director General, added, “Criminals seeking to profit from counterfeiting the creative works of FACT members risk imprisonment as well as seizure of assets obtained through their activities.
“Nigel Thomas was a prolific counterfeiter who knew exactly what he was doing and returned nothing from his enterprise to content creators, cinemas or retailers. Carmarthenshire County Council, working alongside FACT, pursued Mr Thomas and also identified his criminal assets.”
“Criminal activity on this scale threatens the livelihoods of the two million people working in the UK’s creative industries and harms legitimate businesses.”
DI Anthony Evans, of the Financial Crime Team at Dyfed Powys Police Headquarters, said: “This investigation is an excellent example of partnership working in the fight against crime, which has subsequently led to the recovery of significant assets obtained through criminal activity”.