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Ministry of Justice official jailed after Ebay shoe scam
A Ministry of Justice official spent Christmas at Her Majesty’s Pleasure after masterminding a scam selling counterfeit Lelli Kelly and Disney shoes on Ebay.
Civil servant Antoine Simhani, 46, was jailed for 27 months at Kingston Crown Court on Thursday, December 22, after an earlier guilty plea on six sample counts of using a trademark illegally.
His former partner Fan Fanny Cheung, 43, was given a 12 month suspended prison sentence for the same charges after the court heard she was less involved and had five children, three who were living with her.
Paypal records showed they made £230,000 from shoe sales.
Before they were sentenced, Mark Seymour, Simhani’s counsel, pleaded unsuccessfully for a suspended sentence.
He said: “Mr Simhani accepts he was in effect the principal. He is very concerned to make it clear he has to take responsibility for performing that role.
“Behind the scenes he has been employed for about eight years as a civil servant for the Ministry of Justice. It is almost inevitable he is going to be dismissed whatever the outcome today.”
David Patience, representing Cheung, who was born in Shanghai before moving to the UK nine years ago with a former husband, said: “She can’t believe she has put her children in a position where they face and the immediate future without their mother perhaps in the care of the local authority.”
The Italian shoe giant wrote to Cheung to tell her a counterfeit cargo worth £100,000 in her name had been seized by Dutch customs.
They also had two Ebay accounts suspended by the internet trading company after suspicious behaviour, the court heard.
Undeterred, they carried on the “roaring trade” selling shoes to unsuspecting customers under different names, including Poshosh123 and Adorableforyou, adding to the cash they made in a two and a half year period.
Sentencing the pair Judge Georgina Kent, who at an earlier hearing admitted watching Disney movies, said: “This was a persistent and determined effort by you to make money and you did it at the expense of these companies, their employees, people who rely on them and people who bought the shoes.”
The counterfeit children’s shoe scam was finally cracked when a Scottish woman bought a pair for her daughter and they fell apart.
She complained to Fife Council and Kingston's Trading Standards were tipped off, uncovering the con.
They raided Antoine Simhani and Fan Cheung’s home in Tolworth and were amazed to find a staggering 10,000 shoes in a garage and an outhouse.
More shoes were found in mail sacks in their lock-up inside the nearby Big Yellow Storage warehouse.
At one point representatives from the firms they ripped off, Lelli Kelly and Disney, as well as Ebay, had been due to arrive by plane and train to give evidence but cancelled, partly due to the nationwide public services’ strike.
During their sentencing prosecutor Richard Heller said they received negative ratings and complaints from Ebay customers but replied saying: “It was personal neglect or that the person was a troublemaker.”
Kingston Trading Standards finally raided their home in Tolworth Rise South last January and found more than 10,000 fake label shoes.
Shoes would be bought from China for between four and six dollars and sold for an average £23, although the court heard claims their profit after postage, packaging and Ebay charges was just £36,000 in the time they were trading.
David Booker, of Kingston trading standards, said: “The result is the longest sentence that Kingston Trading Standards has had for a criminal matter and demonstrates that the courts view sales of counterfeit goods on eBay or elsewhere as a serious matter.”
Counterfeit goods are estimated to account for 10 percent of the world’s trade with the number’s increasing significantly year on year.
The pair face lengthy confiscation hearings to claw back as much of the unspent proceeds of their criminal children’s shoe business as possible.
Their shoes are expected to be debadged and given to charity in the New Year.