Fraudsters who ran a global fake golf club scam have been ordered to pay back the proceeds of their crimes, which were unearthed after a probe by Havering LBC trading standards officers.
The operation was the largest of its kind investigated by a council trading standards team and also the largest counterfeiting conspiracy uncovered on eBay.
Four members of a seven-strong gang were ordered to pay back the £513,000 following a hearing under the Proceeds Of Crime Act held at Snaresbrook Crown Court last week. Three of the gang were jailed in 2009.
Havering will receive a share of this under a formula to be worked out by court officials, which it must devote the money to some aspect of public protection, rather than put it into general funds. It will also be paid £130,000 by the offenders towards legal costs.
The council may receive more when the group’s ringleader Gary Bellchambers faces a proceeds of crime hearing in September.
The gang sold millions of pounds worth of counterfeit golf clubs and other fake golf merchandise through the website between June 2003 and March 2008.
Most of the fake goods were made in Shenzhen, China and shipped to the defendants to be sent on to eBay customers around the world. Nearly every major golf brand had been counterfeited.
The scam was uncovered when a customer complained to Havering trading standards officers after she had tried to get a refund for two clubs.
Lesley Kelly (Con), cabinet member for public protection, said: “This was a huge victory against counterfeiters who were ripping off thousands of people.
“We will be able to take a large share of these criminals’ assets and invest this money into protecting local people.”
Havering trading standards was last week named the best in the country in the Anti-Counterfeiting Group’s annual awards, winning equipment worth £500.