A WOMAN banked more than £400,000 from sales of counterfeit designer handbags, writes Stuart Arnold.
Mother-of-two Fiona Taylor, 44, laundered cheques through her son’s bank account and spent the money on luxury goods, a new car, private school fees and holidays.
The counterfeit Mulberry bags were sold at “handbag parties” across North Yorkshire, with Taylor telling one woman they were sourced through a contact at Mulberry’s own factory, Teesside Crown Court was told.
In fact, the bags were supplied by counterfeiters in China and some customers complained when they quickly fell to bits.
Prosecutor Richard Bennett said Taylor, of Newton-on-Ouse, near York, made regular substantial payments between November 2007 and May 2013 – a month before her eventual arrest – to a handful of Chinese counterfeit suppliers, totalling £273,071.
He said receipts showed an income of £418,687 relating to sales of counterfeit goods, which allowed for a profit of £145,616. Mr Bennett said one complainant attended a handbag party at the home of a friend in October 2009, buying a handbag which subsequently fell apart.
Another woman paid Taylor £585 for two Mulberry bags, a Jimmy Choo purse and another purse. She later found that the serial number on one of the bags, bought for her daughter, was fake. The item was sent to Mulberry which confirmed it was counterfeit.
Many customers of Taylor’s contacted the genuine Mulberry store in York and such was the volume of complaints the firm contacted Trading Standards.
They warned the defendant and Taylor signed a declaration stating she would stop selling such goods. However this had little effect in discouraging her, Mr Bennett said.
In June last year Taylor’s home was searched and a large number of counterfeit items by designers such as Mulberry, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Chanel seized.
Taylor, of River Walk, Newton On-Ouse, York, admitted two counts of selling counterfeit goods, two counts of concealing criminal property and 14 counts of possessing criminal property.
Susanna Proctor, mitigating, said Taylor had been made redundant from her job in a bank and without a source of income began buying bags for friends.
“People were texting her and asking for bags and it snowballed out of her control,” she said.
“She is incredibly ashamed of her behaviour and is terrified of going to prison.”
Judge Peter Armstrong said organised criminals were benefitting from the counterfeit trade.
“That is why these offences are so serious,” he said.
The judge said he took into account Taylor’s early guilty pleas, references and previous good character and suspended a three month jail sentence on her for two years.
He also ordered her to do 200 hours unpaid work.