A market trader who sold counterfeit DVDs and CDs on his stalls at Bovingdon market has been jailed for 30 months despite Lawton’s Sean Smith telling St Albans Crown Court he was now supporting his family by “legitimate means.”
Mr Smith told the court his 33 year old client – a father of four, with another on the way – was concerned about the effect his imprisonment would have on his family.
But the court was told he thought he was above the law as trading standards officers investigated him for selling more than half a million pounds worth of counterfeit DVDS and CDs.
Despite his illegal activities causing losses to the film and music industries as well as legitimate businesses of more than two million pounds, he still taunted trading standards investigators on Facebook.
After one raid on his stall at Bovingdon Market in Hertfordshire, when more than 2000 dodgy discs were seized, he posted the message “Spent a lovely afternoon and evening in Watford nick after an eventful day on Bovy yesterday. Defo watching a Leonardo Dicaprio film tonight – hmmmm I wonder what the film is called lol.”
Prosecutor Andrew Johnson told St Albans Crown Court the message was a contemptuous jibe at the authorities and referred to the 2002 film “Catch Me If You Can” starring Hollywood star Leonardo Dicaprio.
It was, said Mr Johnson, an example of letting his arrogance get the better of him.
In another post he told how he would be sending Christmas cards to the numerous trading standards officers he had met.
In another he wrote he was looking forward to receiving paperwork from the trading standards department that he wound be using as toilet paper.
He pleaded guilty to a single charge of participating in a fraudulent business carried on by a sole trader.
The court heard he had converted a flat in Penn Hill, Luton, Bedfordshire into a “factory” to produce counterfeit DVD and CDs.
By installing three “burner towers” needed to burn the discs, Thornton could produce thousands in a day.
Some of the films he copied hadn’t even been released into the shops.
He then packaged the discs so that they looked like the real thing.
Thornton rented a storage facility in Dunstable where he kept his illegal copies which he sold on his stall at the weekly market on a disused airfield at Bovingdon.
He also acted as a wholesaler, supplying the fake discs to other market traders.
The charge covered a period from September 2011 through to the summer of 2014.
Passing sentence, Judge Catterson told the man from Corby in Northants that she accepted many people buy goods on the market would have realised the “nature” of what they were getting on his stalls.
But she said the harm to legitimate businesses and the people they employed was considerable.
She said his turnover of £560,000 in just under three years showed the scale of his operation.
The judge said of his Facebook taunts “It notes your contemptuous attitude towards the authorities and your total lack of remorse at the time.”
The investigation into him by trading standards officers from Hertfordshire, along with the Federation Against Copyright Theft and the BPI, began in 2011 with test purchases of DVDs and CDs from two stalls he operated at the market.
There then followed raids on the stalls with fake goods being seized, but he continued to manufacture the counterfeit goods and sell them as well as acting as a wholesale supplier to other traders.
Finally in May 2014 the authorities stopped his as he drove off the M1 at Junction 8 near Hemel Hempstead and discovered he had with him more than 9400 counterfeit DVDs and CDs that he was intending to take to the market at Bovingdon.