Press release

Prison time for couple running fake BMW accessories scam

A financial investigation by the IPO has led to the arrest and sentencing of a couple selling fake BMW accessories.

A church warden and his wife have received prison sentences after admitting selling fake BMW merchandise worth millions of pounds.

Stephen Anderson, 49, and his wife Elizabeth Anderson, based in Ballymena Northern Ireland, made more than £1 million selling counterfeit BMW goods via online auction site EBay.

The investigation found that the goods, including tyre valve caps, car stickers, and BMW cuff links, were imported regularly from South East Asia via post offices in the East Midlands and Coventry.

The couple’s crime spree helped fund a glamorous lifestyle. Two luxury sports cars and vast quantities of designer clothing have been seized by police under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Prosecutors have also requested a confiscation of the couple’s assets which have an estimated value of over £1 million.

The Andersons have been sentenced to a combined total of 2 years in prison.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), working closely with BMW, began a covert financial investigation in 2013 which revealed that the church warden and his wife were making more than £40,000 a month.

Baroness Neville Rolfe, Minister for Intellectual Property, said:

This is yet another example of the effectiveness of intelligence sharing. The partnership between government, law enforcement, and the private sector is vital in the fight against criminal counterfeiter traders.

The sale of fake goods online is a challenging area to police, so I am very pleased to see how impactful the financial investigation by the IPO’s Intelligence Hub has been. The government is committed to helping legitimate businesses and police forces stamp out illicit trade whenever and wherever it appears.

Detective Chief Inspector Colin Gillis of Police Service Northern Ireland’s Reactive and Organised Crime unit, said:

The market for car products linked to prestige brands is substantial. Those who seek to subvert this market by making and selling counterfeit products are putting jobs at risk and reducing legitimate profits. They are also taking money out of the legitimate economy and its tax revenues which pay for public services.

We remain committed to working with industry to ensure that producers, workers and the public are protected from fraudsters. I would urge anyone with information about the manufacture, distribution or sale of any counterfeit products to contact police.

Notes to Editors

The UK Intellectual Property Office:

  • the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is responsible for Intellectual Property (IP) rights in the United Kingdom, including patents, designs, trade marks and copyright
  • the UK sees IP enforcement, whether civil or criminal, as crucial for innovation and economic growth, and supports the coordination and cooperation across the IP community to tackle counterfeiting and piracy
  • the UK IPO released an enforcement strategy: ‘Protecting creativity, supporting innovation: IP enforcement 2020’ in May 2016. This strategy sets out how the government will make effective, proportionate and accessible enforcement of IP rights a priority for the next four years

The Proceeds of Crime Act:

  • the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (“POCA”) sets out the legislative scheme for the recovery of criminal assets with criminal confiscation being the most commonly used power
  • confiscation occurs after a conviction has taken place. Other means of recovering the proceeds of crime which do not require a conviction are provided for in the Act, namely civil recovery, cash seizure and taxation powers
  • the Act also provides for a number of investigative powers, such as search and seizure powers, and powers to apply for production orders and disclosure orders, and allows for the “restraint” or “freezing” of assets to prevent dissipation of assets prior to a confiscation order being made