A CONMAN who traded in illegal counterfeit computer games and DVDs whilst also claiming benefits has been jailed.
Stephen Meanley of High Street, Atherton was found guilty of running an organised operation trading in fake DVDs and games which he was selling on the internet from a broom cupboard in his home.
Sentencing the 46-year-old to 15 months’ imprisonment, the judge at Liverpool Crown Court described how what began as a cottage industry became a “substantial enterprise”, and stated that it was not only dishonest but also harmful to the national economy.
Meanley received 12 months’ imprisonment for the Trade Mark offences and thre months for the Benefit Fraud offences, to run consecutively. The sentence took into account a one third reduction for an early guilty plea.
The judge also made a forfeiture order in respect of the seized goods and, due to the sentence of imprisonment, made no order for costs.
The prosecution followed a joint operation by Wigan Council’s Trading Standards team and Greater Manchester Police. Last April, search warrants were executed at two homes in Atherton and Leigh and more than 2,000 fake discs were recovered from the premises, as well as various computer equipment.
Julie Middlehurst, Wigan Council Trading Standards Manager, said: “The length of the sentence imposed reflects how seriously this crime is treated.
“Meanley attempted to hide his identity by setting up bank accounts using relatives names as well as using an alias name and false address, but even these measures could not protect him from being identified and prosecuted.
“From the evidence we obtained, the individual appears to have made in excess of £50,000 while claiming various benefits. We are committed to working with all partners including benefit agencies to clamp down on counterfeiters.”
Supt Andrea Jones of Greater Manchester Police’s Wigan Division said: “Police will continue to work closely with Wigan Council’s Trading Standards to prosecute those who deal in counterfeit goods. This is not a victimless crime, as selling counterfeits harms the economy, undermines legitimate enterprise and can affect local jobs.”
Anyone wanting to report people selling counterfeit goods should ring Consumer Direct 08454 040506.