Mother sold fake Princess Diana autographs
Sep 24 2008 WalesOnline
A single mother who made more than £13,000 selling fake autographs over the internet was given a suspended prison sentence today.
Louise Marney, 32, admitted deceiving people by selling the signed photographs of celebrities, including Princess Diana and Sean Connery, to customers who believed they were genuine.
Swansea Crown Court heard the telemarketer, of Walters Road, Neath, south Wales, was the “forerunner” of a website called Celeb Factory, which was set up by an accomplice she has only identified as Jason.
Through the website, and internet auction site eBay, the pair offered for sale thousands of fake signed photographs of stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Freddie Mercury, Kylie Minogue, Pele, Muhammad Ali, Simon Cowell and the cast of the A-Team.
Ben Blakemore, prosecuting, said prices for the autographs, accompanied by a certificate of authenticity, ranged between £19.99 and £89.99, with the exception of the false Princess Diana autograph, which was advertised for sale at £299.99.
Marney admitted conspiring to apply false trademarks to goods between September 2006 and July last year, by purporting the autographed goods were genuine when they were not.
Celeb Factory sold 4,770 items on eBay alone in that period, Mr Blakemore added. The court heard Marney bought legitimate photographs from another website and sent them to Jason to sign before they were returned to her for sale.
She was paid at least £300 per week, Mr Blakemore said, making a total of up to £13,800.
The Celeb Factory website offered customers “one of a kind” original autographs that were “an investment for the future”, the court heard.
Mr Blakemore added: “The defendant even had the audacity to put a peace-of-mind guarantee to it.”
The scam was eventually uncovered by trading standards officers from Neath Port Talbot Council investigating the sale of a fake signed Sean Connery photograph.
Nic Sefton, defending, said Marney had “complete and utter remorse at the situation she finds herself in”.
He said: “It was completely out of character for her. It was undertaken, in reality, through necessity.”
Marney stopped trading with Celeb Factory before becoming aware of the trading standards investigation, Mr Sefton added.
Judge Christopher Morton dismissed claims made in a character reference that Marney is a “woman of high integrity”.
He said: “Over a ten month period, she has taken a full part in conning people out of money.”
He sentenced her on her basis of plea, that Jason was “at the centre of the scam”, but told Marney: “You were fully involved in the sale of these items sent out with counterfeit signatures.”
The judge sentenced Marney to 42 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and ordered her to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing will take place in January.