Warning to counterfeiters as trading standards crack down on fake goods being sold in Wigan

Traders selling illicit cigarettes, counterfeit alcohol or other fake goods in Wigan WILL be caught and made to pay for their crimes.

Friday, 7th January 2022, 12:30 pm

That is the message from Wigan Council’s trading standards team as they highlight their efforts to crack down on counterfeiting.

Whether it is shopkeepers offering cigarettes under the counter or individuals selling knock-off designer clothes in Facebook groups, they are determined to bring everyone to justice.

It comes just weeks after Lowton man Ian Cronin was ordered to pay more than £60,000 by a judge after being found selling phoney car accessories online.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Fake bottles of vodka can look just like the real thing

He was caught after international brands saw his goods being offered on eBay and realised they were fake, leading to an investigation by Wigan’s trading standards team and prosecution.

And earlier this month, counterfeit computer and camera storage micro SD cards, as well as USB sticks, worth around £5,000 were seized during the raid at a house in Billinge.

Julie Middlehurst, assistant director for infrastructure and regulatory services at Wigan Council, said: “Selling counterfeit goods or illicit cigarettes and alcohol is a serious crime and has a damaging effect on our communities. We know that it is not a victimless crime.

“Our trading standards team is actively pursuing the criminals who are selling illegal goods and we thank the public for playing their part in reporting sellers to us.

Trading standards manager Ian Kelsall, Julie Middlehurst, assistant director for infrastructure and regulatory services at Wigan Council, and trading standards officer Abdul Bari with some of the counterfeit goods they have seized

“If you suspect an item is not legitimate, we would encourage you not to buy, as the cheap price may come at cost to our health, local businesses and our communities.

“We are really grateful to our residents and legitimate businesses for their support tackling this issue and encourage you to continue providing information to our team if you suspect illegal goods on sale in our borough.”

Counterfeiting is a problem across Wigan and the whole country and can lead to offenders being jailed for up to 10 years.

It can involve all sorts of items, from fake cigarettes and alcohol to clothes, trainers and computer equipment.

Trading standards in Wigan have seized more than 40,000 cigarettes, three kilogrammes of tobacco and 56 bottles of vodka in the last year.

Shoppers may not realise they are buying counterfeit goods and instead just be pleased to be saving a few pounds, but there are many risks to buying these products.

While some people selling contraband items are individuals working alone, others will be working to fund organised crime gangs and even terrorism with the proceeds.

Strict rules are in place for cigarettes and alcohol sold legally, but they are not followed by people producing and selling fakes. The counterfeit products can contain any ingredients, are even sold to children and can pose health risks to those who consume them.

Legitimate traders lose out when people spend their money on phoney products, affecting Wigan businesses and the success of the high street.

Quality of goods is always a concern too, as knock-off trainers are likely to quickly fall apart.

Fake goods are sold in a variety of ways, such as shops that do not usually stock cigarettes offering them under the counter.

There may even be competition if other local shops are also selling dodgy products.

Because of the borough’s proximity to Cheetham Hill, which is a hot-spot for counterfeit goods, people in Wigan may sell fake designer items bought there in Facebook groups.

And while online auction websites such as eBay do look out for fraudsters, sometimes they do still manage to sell their wares there.

Wigan’s trading standards team works proactively to encourage people to report any suspicious items on sale, which leads to them receiving a lot of complaints.

That intelligence leads to officers carrying out their own research into sellers, even using sniffer dogs to track down illicit items.

Magistrates can issue warrants for officers to carry out raids on homes and businesses, the suspicious items are then seized and further investigations are carried out, often leading to legal action.

Wigan shoppers are urged to be vigilant for any counterfeit items and to report any concerns.

If the price is lower than expected or the quality is not up to scratch, there is a chance it is fake.

Coun Kevin Anderson, the council’s cabinet portfolio holder for police, crime and civil contingencies, said: “People may be looking for a bargain but our message to you is that if a product is priced so cheaply it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

“We are encouraging residents to remain vigilant and to report any traders they suspect are selling illicit or counterfeit goods to trading standards.”

Coun Paul Prescott, cabinet portfolio holder for environment, added: “We remain determined to take action against people who deal in illicit and counterfeit goods, which has a wide knock-on effect on our borough’s local businesses and on the health and safety of

residents.

“Our trading standards team work hard to support and protect residents and will, where necessary, take action through the courts.”

To report concerns about counterfeit goods, email trading standards at [email protected] or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.

The Keep It Out campaign also works to stamp out illicit cigarettes across Greater Manchester. Find out more at keep-it-out.co.uk

The first case of a counterfeiter in Wigan being ordered to pay back cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act has recently been heard in court.

An investigation was launched in 2018 into counterfeit motor vehicle accessories, such as key rings, dust cap tyre valve sets, registration plate bolt screw sets and badges, being sold on eBay by Ian Cronin.

Jaguar Land Rover and Skoda Auto carried out test purchases in June 2018 of items bearing their trademarks and confirmed they were counterfeit.

A warrant was executed on November 1, 2018 at Cronin’s home on Wensley Road, Lowton, which led to a large seizure of counterfeit accessories and associated items, such as a computer tower and padded envelopes.

Cronin was interviewed by police under caution, but refused to co-operate or answer any questions.

Statements were obtained from 12 brand holders, including Jaguar Land Rover, Peugeot, Chrysler, Mercedes, Ford, to demonstrate the seized items were fake. Financial information provided by PayPal indicated Cronin made sales of £61,827.69 between April 5, 2015 and October 31, 2018, while data from eBay showed 17,463 counterfeit items had been sold.

Cronin was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, when he appeared in court in October 2020. He was also given a 90-day overnight curfew. He was back in court a year later for a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA), where a confiscation order was made for £60,540.71 and costs order was made for £5,000, making a combined total of £65,540.71.

Cronin was given three months to make the payment and can then apply for a further three months, but must provide evidence that he has tried to obtain the funds, such as by putting his house on the market.

If no payment is made, he could be jailed for eight months and still have to pay the money owed.

Thank you for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 for your first month. Try us today by clicking here