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Mountain Ash Family Foursome Avoid Christmas Behind Bars

David Jones, Head of Community Protection with the hoard of counterfeit goods discovered

A family of Cynon Valley crooks narrowly escaped being imprisoned for Christmas after selling fake designer clothes and accessories on the internet.

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Trading Standards Officers led the case against a father, daughter and their partners in a Mountain Ash street where more than 85 counterfeit items were found.

Merthyr Crown Court heard that between January and April 2013 the Trading Standards Department received two complaints regarding the sale of counterfeit clothing on social media.

After investigation it was apparent that those involved in the criminal offences were Christian Holloway and Tara Morgan along with their neighbours Charlene Holloway and Lee Comely of Cynon Terrace.

The four were advertising the fake brand-named items on a variety of local “Swap Shops” and around 50 other buy-and-sell internet pages.

Warrants for their arrests were made in June 2013 and all four were charged with counts contrary to Section 92 of the Trademarks Act 1994, and for knowingly participating in a fraudulent business, contrary to Section 9 of the Fraud Act 2006.

When their home was searched Holloway and Morgan explained to Trading Standards Officers that they kept counterfeit clothing and footwear boxed up in the bathroom. They claimed to have purchased the goods from traders in Bristol Fruit Market and jointly sold them online.

A total of 60 items were seized from the property including 13 pairs of Vans trainers, 17 pairs of Converse All Stars, three pairs of Nike trainers, Calvin Klein, Gucci and Louis Vuitton boxers, seven Ralph Lauren hoodies and three Ralph Lauren chino shorts along with G-Star, Adidas, Bench, Vans and Nike t-shirts and sets of Dr Dre headphones.

At the Comely and Holloway home, officers found 26 items including three Bench t-shirts, three Superdry t-shirts, a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt, eight pairs of Nike trainers, 10 pairs of Converse trainers and a pair of Rayban sunglasses.

Samples of the clothing and footwear seized were sent to the various trademark holders to examine and to establish the authenticity of the items. All items examined were confirmed to be counterfeit.

The iPhones belonging to all four defendants were professionally analysed and text messages and messages on social media found concerning the sale of the counterfeit goods.

Christian Holloway said he purchased the items in good faith from the Bristol Fruit Market, even though he heard the Sunday market was “full of gear” and the items were obviously counterfeit as they were so cheap.

This led to Holloway and Morgan purchasing goods to sell to friends and family and then start advertising the items on social media. Holloway admitted that the orders for items resulted in friends naming him “Counterfeit Chris” but claimed he never sold any of them as genuine articles as he knew they were fake.

Holloway accepted that his daughter, Charlene Holloway and her partner, Lee Comely, attended the market with him and Morgan, but they purchased their own items and sold it independently of them.

The Court heard that Comely had also changed the name of his social media page to “RCT Selling Page” and used his partner’s account in order to sell the counterfeit items. He added that the items were obviously fake and he didn’t attempt to sell them as being genuine.

The Council’s Trading Standards Officers requested forfeiture and destruction of the items.

All four defendants entered guilty pleas on all counts. The Judge stressed at the outset that these offences clearly crossed the custody threshold, but given the defendants’ previous clean character, he was minded to suspend the custodial element of any sentence.

Christian Holloway was given six months and eight months of a custodial sentence to run concurrently and these were suspended for 12 months. There was a supervision requirement of 12 months and he must undertake 100 hours of community service work.

Tara Morgan was also sentenced to the same, with the exception of undertaking 80 hours of community service work.

Lee Comely was given four months and six months of a custodial sentence to run concurrently and these were suspended for 12 months. There was a supervision requirement of 12 months. He must undertake 100 hours of community service work, pay costs of £400 and a victim surcharge of £80.

Charlene Holloway also faced the same sentence, except there was no community service work. She was ordered to pay £200 costs and a victim surcharge of £80.

David Jones, Head of Community Protection at Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, said: “This is one of the largest investigations we’ve undertaken into the sale of counterfeit goods in the County Borough and gives a clear message that we will do all we can to bring these people to justice.

“During a period of austerity and particularly on the run up to Christmas, residents of Rhondda Cynon Taf will be looking for a last-minute bargain. But the need is greater than ever for them to realise that if a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is and the items they are purchasing are fake and sub-standard.

“We have a zero tolerance approach to offenders who supply and sell counterfeit goods in our communities. Their illegal behaviour not only rips-off our residents but has a detrimental effect on the genuine brand holders and traders selling legitimate designer goods.”

For further advice on your rights contact Citizens Advice Consumer Services, a government-backed telephone and online consumer advice service that works in partnership with the local authority Trading Standards Services, on 08454 04 05 06.

Or if you have any information on IP crime please contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.