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Jail sentence for counterfeiter who made up to £850,000

Published: Tue September 09, 2008  News Feed

A counterfeiter of luxury goods, music and movie DVDs in south east London has been sent to prison for 3 years following a hearing at Blackfriars Crown Court on 8 September.

Officers from Lewisham Council and Bromley Police, assisted by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and the BPI (formerly known as the British Phonographic Industry), carried out a three-year investigation into Neil Anthony Norton, after they discovered he was making illegal copies of music and films and selling the CDs and DVDs on the internet. He was also selling a variety of counterfeit luxury consumer goods, and "cracked" music software such as the ones distributed by Arbiter (distributor of music software brands sold by Dolphin, such as Arturia, Native Instruments, Steinberg, etc.) who gave precious information to court.

41-year-old Norton, of Ravensbourne Road in Bromley, used his home as a counterfeiting factory to make and store a huge range of counterfeit goods, music and films. He also used a tanning salon business in Lewisham as a base for some of his activities. Mr Norton, aka Neil Scott, used a false identity and several bank accounts to hide his money. He lived a lavish lifestyle, purchasing a £10,000 outdoor Jacuzzi for his home, a Porsche Cabriolet and a state-of-the-art sound system fitted in every room of his house.
It is estimated that Mr Norton’s counterfeiting operation netted him between £450,000 and £850,000.

Following the investigation, Mr Norton was charged with two counts of conspiracy to defraud between January 1998 and October 2005. He pleaded guilty to both charges at an earlier hearing.

Councillor Susan Wise, Cabinet Member for Customer Services at Lewisham Council said, “That Mr Norton felt that there was nothing wrong in defrauding so many companies, beggars belief. The very large amount of money that he made from his actions is staggering.

“By working together, we have successfully brought an end to this man's illegal trading empire. Lewisham has made it clear that we will not tolerate any kind of counterfeit action in our borough, and we will always prosecute."

Kieron Sharp, FACT Director General, added, “Thanks to a well planned and executed multi-agency operation a major counterfeit ‘business’ has been taken out of action. The sentence handed out shows the gravity with which the courts will now treat this serious criminal activity. FACT looks forward to continued working with Lewisham Council and the Met Police.”

BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor said: “Illegal downloading has created new challenges for the music business, but physical commercial music piracy remains a huge problem. Successful multi-agency enforcement operations significantly disrupt and deter this criminal trade, and we can thank the outstanding continued efforts of the authorities for preventing the problem from spiralling out of control.

“But we must collectively discourage consumers from fuelling this area of crime. Few musicians are wealthy, and rely on the income from music sales and the investment record companies make in them to earn a living. Everyone deserves to be paid for their work.”

Mr Norton purchased counterfeit garments and other branded goods from suppliers in the Far East and then sold them as genuine through eBay and his website. Mr Norton bought blank optical discs which he used to illegally copy music, films, games and software. The counterfeit discs were then sold as wholesale and retail via his website and on the internet.

In sentencing, the judge, Mr Ian Karsten QC, said that Mr Norton had operated for almost 8 years and in that time had made a considerable amount of money. Coupled with that was the substantial loss to industry - people who were genuinely entitled to the income from their business and trademarks. The judge estimated that the loss to industry could have been as much as £1.5 to £2 million.

Mr Norton’s assets will now be fully assessed and a confiscation hearing is set for January. Property seized includes Mr Norton’s home in Bromley, 2 cars (a Porsche and a BMW), car number plates, cameras and computer equipment. At that time, Lewisham Council will also request a destruction order to destroy all the counterfeit goods that were seized when Mr Norton’s home and business were raided.

Along with 5 commercial duplicators for copying discs, other evidence seized during the raids included:

  • Designer label clothing, footwear, handbags, pens and sunglasses from brand names such as Christian Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Prada, Diesel, Burberry, Timberland, Ben Sherman, Lacoste, Boss and Oakley.
  • Fake Rolex watches and Mont Blanc pens (these can retail between £200 to £700)
  • 356 counterfeit DVD films (plus 36,644 examples of artwork for producing CD/DVD covers on multiple hard drives on different computers)
  • 267 MP3 music discs (plus 208,660 illegal MP3 audio files found on different computers)
  • 61 counterfeit computer games
  • 100 illegal software discs (such as Norton Anti-Virus, Photoshop and Nero Anti-Virus)
  • 300 blank writable film discs.
  • Just under £40,000 in cash, Euros and postal orders was also seized from Mr Norton’s home, business address and safety deposit boxes. 

Remember: You should never buy any "cracked" software or illegal CDs/ DVDs! Support fighting against piracy and only buy from legitimate dealers such as Dolphin...

About FACT:
The Federation Against Copyright Theft is the UK’s leading trade organisation established to protect and represent the interests of the film and broadcasting industry against copyright and trademark infringements. Established in 1983, FACT works closely with statutory law enforcement agencies to combat the growth of pirate DVDs, film and other forms of broadcast material including the increasing threat from online/internet based piracy. FACT has been accepted as a prosecution authority and engages in criminal prosecutions in its own right.

The maximum penalty for offences of film piracy is 10 years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. Proceeds of Crime Act legislation now also enables confiscation of assets and goods obtained through criminal activity. 

More information go to www.fact-uk.org.uk

About the BPI:
The BPI represents the British recorded music industry. Its membership comprises of over 400 music companies including the four 'major' record companies, indie labels, manufacturers, distributors and hundreds of independent music companies representing literally thousands of labels comprising over 90% of the UK's recorded music market.
A major area of the BPI's work is tackling music piracy, and the BPI combats commercial music piracy on behalf of the wider British music industry.

Piracy facts and figures:
16.5 million - estimate of album sales lost annually to piracy
£165 million - estimated annual value of lost sales to industry
45% - percentage of pirate purchases resulting in a lost sale
37m - estimated total number of fake CDs bought in UK in 2005
£2.48 - average price of a fake CD
£8.15 - average price of a genuine CD
7% - the percentage of the UK population who buy pirate CDs
10% - estimated UK music piracy rate
70% - estimated UK rate of Bollywood film and music piracy
80% - estimated percentage of music pirates illegally claiming benefits

For more information about the BPI go to www.bpi.co.uk  

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