£140K fake trainers racket busted

Crime scene: The Gibsons sports store on Church Street  ' which is now operating under the name G2 Lifestyle
Crime scene: The Gibsons sports store on Church Street ' which is now operating under the name G2 Lifestyle
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A Blackpool sports shop which sold more than 3,000 pairs of fake trainers to unwitting customers has been ordered to pay back nearly £142,000.

Gibson Sports sold the Adidas sports shoes from its store in Church Street as well as through online auction sites including Ebay at £35 a pair.

Owner Andrew Rourke was handed a 12 month prison sentence suspended for two years and the company was fined £30,000 after being prosecuted by Blackpool Council.

Preston Crown Court He claimed he had not known the goods were counterfeit but accepted he did not carry out the proper checks.

Rourke has also been ordered to pay back £141,925 following a POCA (Proceeds of Crime Act) hearing, and must also pay the council’s costs of more than £8,000.

Prosecutors said he had bought the trainers from a man he met at a motorway service station near Blackburn, paying £76,282 in cash for 4,055 pairs of the shoes according to invoices.

The trainers were all copies of Adidas styles - Superstar II, The Sneeker, Stan Smith and Forest Hills.

Trading Standards officers at Blackpool Council were alerted to the scam when a disgruntled customer got in touch with them.

The court heard the man had bought his trainers online but the sole on one of the shoes had completely worn away after being worn only 20 or 30 times.

Council officers visited Gibson Sports in March 2013 and initially seized 89 pairs of Adidas sports shoes, before returning later that month to confiscate a further 323 pairs of trainers from the office above the shop.

Further visits were made to seize more of the shoes.

Only 422 pairs were recovered, meaning a total of 3,633 pairs had been sold.

Rourke and Gibson Sports Ltd each admitted three charges relating to selling and possessing counterfeit goods likely to be mistaken for a registered trademark.

Mark Stephenson, representing Rourke, said it had not been known the trainers were counterfeit. Due diligence checks had not been carried out regarding the goods.

He said only about two complaints had been made about the product.

Mr Stephenson added: “He tried to help trading standards officers to find who supplied them to him and referred them to someone in London who had been selling them.”

John Close, in mitigation for Gibson Sports, said the company had been operating at a substantial loss and in 2011 it had £500,000 worth of creditors, but at least half of that has now been repaid.

Council chiefs today warned counterfeit trading would not be tolerated in the town.

Coun Gillian Campbell, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for public protection, said: “Counterfeiting goods is a problem that damages fair and honest businesses, defrauds consumers and puts the public at risk. It is an offence that we take very seriously.

“Through the Proceeds of Crime Act, the owners of the company will be forced to pay back the money they have gained dishonestly as well as being fined and made to pay the money it has cost for us to prosecute them.

“A suspended prison sentence has been given too and if the Proceeds of Crime money is not paid within six months, the courts have the power to implement that prison sentence.

“This should serve a warning to traders throughout Blackpool that counterfeiting will not be tolerated.”

Trading Standards first visited the shop on March 22 2013, but the company, which also had outlets in Accrington, Burnley and St Helens, continued sales through Ebay until April 12 2013, around three weeks later.

The court heard all the trainers had been bought from one source, a man called Amangit who contacted the shop.

The council tried to trace the supplier but his address proved to be a travel agents, while the VAT number was false.

It is believed Adidas made a huge seizure at some stage of goods in France and the trainers had come from that country.