One man's act to take advantage of adoring fans of popstar Justin Bieber and boyband One Direction has led to a 30-month prison sentence.
Meraj Gul, 34, from Woolwich, London, UK, pleaded guilty to selling fake Justin Bieber and One Direction merchandise with unauthorised trademarks on eBay.
The racket, which was ongoing between March 2012 and February 2015, made Gul more than £150,000.
"This sentencing proves that producing, selling and distributing fake goods online will not go unpunished," Peter Ratcliffe, acting detective superintendent and head of the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), said in a statement. "Not only does this act deprive the creative industry of revenue, it also puts the livelihoods of those working in it at risk."
Ratcliffe added: "We hope this sentencing sends a warning to those carrying out this type of criminal activity and that their actions are not without consequences."
Gul was caught after a private investigation company working for the musicians, Surelock International, tipped off the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) in July 2014.
Surelock had purchased several items of merchandise bearing the popstars' trademarks from Gul's eBay accounts as part of its investigation. All of the items – including hoodies, sweaters, t-shirts and vest tops – were identified as counterfeit.
In February 2015, raids by PIPCU officers were carried out at two addresses in east London, resulting in the seizure of CCTV equipment, branded and non-branded clothing, stencil templates containing the designs of brands, and machinery used to transfer logos and designs to unbranded clothing, a City of London Police statement said.
Representatives of Justin Bieber and One Direction deemed the branded clothing seized from the raid to be fake.
Ratcliffe acknowledged the hard work of PIPCU officers and the collaboration with Surelock to make the operation a success, which "brought the man responsible to justice".
Ron Harrison, director of Surelock, said: "Surelock is one of the UK's most pro-active brand protection companies, who represent a number of clients including music artists where we act as enforcement agents for Trademarks and Rightsholders Against Piracy (TRAP). We received excellent service and co-operation from City of London PIPCU. A large amount of counterfeit merchandise was seized and this was ultimately a very successful operation for which we are grateful."
Justin Bieber and One Direction have been the victims of fake merchandise operations before. In 2014, a British man was jailed for a year after making more than £220,000 from selling knock-off clothing bearing the artists brands and trademarks on eBay. He had previously researched the sale of counterfeit goods on the internet.
And in 2015, a Manchester man was ordered to pay the state his £140,000 profit from selling fake Bieber and One Direction items that he made using printing equipment from the amateur football club where he worked.