A Brighton man has been jailed for six months for importing fake DVDs worth more than £250,000 and money laundering.
Gary Finch, 45, of Burstead Close, Hollingdean, is starting a six-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to three counts of importing counterfeit DVDs and three counts of laundering.
The eBay customer had, in good faith, purchased a box set of DVDs.
They were advertised as a genuine product being shipped from within the UK.
When they arrived a number of foreign postmarks were noticeable and it was clear that the DVDs were fake.
A warrant was executed at Finch’s home address in May 2009.
Dozens of pirated DVDs were recovered together with computer equipment and financial documents.
Further investigation revealed an organised criminal network from Malaysia which was responsible for shipping the DVDs.
The eBay account belonging to Finch was being used to advertise the discs.
Inquiries by police financial experts established that over a 12-month period, Finch had sold £255,961 worth of pirated DVDs.
Most were box sets of American television series such as Ghostwhisperer, Californication and Kyle XC.
Finch first appeared at Croydon Crown Court in May 2010.
He told the court that he acted as an “administrator” answering emails on behalf of an unknown man in Malaysia.
He would regularly transfer substantial monies overseas while drawing a salary of £2,000 a month.
The jury failed to reach a verdict and the matter was listed for a retrial in April 2011.
However, last August Sussex Police successfully applied to a court for a forfeiture order for the £34,074 in Finch’s account.
He then pleaded guilty in advance of the retrial and appeared at Croydon Crown Court on Wednesday (2 February).
The court took into account the fact that monies had been repaid.
But it noted that Finch knew or suspected for a year that what he was doing was illegal.
It also noted that the monies he was transferring or keeping for himself represented criminal property and proceeds from his criminal conduct.
Sentencing Finch to six months in prison, Judge John Anderson said that his actions had been damaging to the legitimate film industry.
Judge Anderson said that he hoped that the sentence would act as a deterrent to others involved in film piracy.
Detective Sergeant Mick Richards, from the Sussex Police Economic Crime Unit, said: “It is clear that Finch knew he was acting unlawfully and was earning a substantial salary for acting as an intermediary.
“He tried to minimise his role within the organised crime group but his role was instrumental in over a quarter of million pounds being transferred to overseas criminals.
“We have worked in close partnership with FACT throughout this investigation and will always look to pursue those criminal networks and to strip offenders of their criminal assets.”
Kieron Sharp, FACT director-general, said: “FACT has worked closely with Sussex Police to bring this case to court and the prison sentence reflects the serious nature of the criminality.
“This case highlights the way that organised criminal gangs are using the internet to generate and launder vast criminal profits through popular auction sites and other online activities.
“I would like to thank the Sussex Police Economic Crime Unit for their work on this case.”
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