A karate teacher found selling fake DVDs and Scholl foot care products, running a fraudulent business, money laundering and more, is today sentenced to four years in prison.
Southwark Council led on the investigation and subsequent prosecution at the Inner London Crown Court.
Stephen Anthony Clarke Gostling (56), of Birkbeck Road, Beckenham, had a fraudulent online business with sales in excess of £500,000.
He pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering, in addition to other offences relating to the distribution of counterfeit goods.
Gostling pleaded guilty to nine offences under the Fraud Act, Proceeds of Crime Act and Trade Marks Act. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment for each count, to be served concurrently (four years in total).
In sentencing at the Inner London Crown Court, Mr Recorder Dawson said: “You were engaging in fraud to a significant level and only an immediate, custodial sentence is justified.”
Gostling went to considerable lengths to avoid detection while running his criminal enterprise from home. Southwark Council identified 22 eBay accounts, 28 PayPal accounts and 31 bank accounts; which he’d set up using some 30 different names.
Gostling used these to sell counterfeit products, process payment of fraudulent sales and launder the proceeds of his criminality for more than five years.
Anti-piracy investigators from the Film Content Protection Agency, working on behalf of the Film Distributors’ Association, undertook test purchases of a Batman V Superman DVD and a Harry Potter box set.
Both were confirmed as counterfeit. Financial checks with PayPal, eBay and receiving banks, led Southwark Trading Standards to an address outside the borough in Penge, SE20.
Southwark Council executed entry warrants at four addresses linked to Gostling on the same day in March 2018: a self-storage unit in Beckenham and three nearby residential addresses in Penge and South Norwood.
The police and Bromley and Croydon Trading Standards supported the execution of the warrants.
During this operation, some 615 fake DVDs were seized from the self-storage unit, along with 633 fake Scholl Pedicure rollers. At the same time, 2,208 DVDs and a number of laptops were seized from the rented house where Gostling lived and ran his operations.
Cllr Darren Merrill, Cabinet Member for a Safer, Cleaner Borough, said: “This sentence should serve as a grave warning that the Courts see DVD piracy and counterfeiting for what it is – fraud. It’s a fraud on customers and a fraud on our film industries, which makes a significant contribution to the UK economy.
“Gostling went to great lengths to disguise the fact he was making money from duping thousands of customers into buying dodgy DVDs. I am pleased that thanks to the investigative skills of our trading standards team the business was halted and any profits he made are likely be confiscated.”
Anyone wishing to report the sale of counterfeit goods can tell Trading Standards in confidence, or report them using Crimestoppers’ secure and anonymous service: 0800 555 111.
Alternatively, you can also report to LTS, in confidence, via the link at the bottom of this website.