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Gloucestershire Business News

Gloucester man who sold counterfeit car badges sentenced

A Gloucester man who sold Chinese-made counterfeit car badges on the internet has been ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.

Gloucester Crown Court was told Wednesday (June 16) that Cezary Sobieszuk, 40, of Sapperton Road had initially run a legitimate business selling car parts and spares after discovering his BMW was worth more as spare parts than as a whole car.

However, in 2018, he also ran another business selling car accessories through online markets such as Amazon and eBay.

He bought a range of purportedly BMW, VW and Ford car badges from China and was selling those, using business names which changed annually.

Following a tip off, trading standards officers searched his business unit in Chase Lane, Gloucester and his home address on March 14, 2018.

"The officers seized a of a total of 976 car badges, all of which were examined and found to be displaying the trademarks of the three motoring companies without authority," Mr Greenwood said.

"These were good quality product but they bore incorrect product codes and were therefore counterfeit.

"Sobieszuk was asked if he had contacted a main dealer to find the real retail price of the items, but said he hadn't and replied that the car manufacturers would have got the items from China anyway.

"He said he bought the badges as samples for £3 each and he sold them on at a small profit.

"However trading standards officers found multiple examples of these badges and that a number were in envelopes along with receipts for payment, ready for posting.

"When questioned about this Sobieszuk didn't fully understand what counterfeit meant and he believed the items he was selling were genuine as they came from China and he was only making a small profit once postage and packaging had been taken into account.

"The trading standards officers also discovered amongst Sobieszuk's records that showed he had received an official letter from Volkswagen over the sale of fake VW accessories in 2017, after which he ceased selling this manufacture's products.

"The officers also found communications from Amazon which had blocked his account when he attempted to sell his fake car badges."

Giles Nelson, defending, said: "We are only here today because the magistrates are unable to deal with the proceeds of crime aspect of the case. It is a matter of law.

"I accept there are a large number of counterfeit items, and he has pleaded guilty to four charges. He says he was selling the items as trinkets to soup up these vehicles and look good in a traffic jam.

"I've handled these items and they are of good quality, but he does infringe the registered trademark.

"Sobieszuk paid tax and VAT on these products. He bought the items off Alibaba, China's equivalent of Amazon, for £3 each and as cars have four wheels, he would purchase them in multiples of four.

"He is an interesting man and is clearly quite resourceful having arrived in this country in 2005. He has never claimed any state benefit.

"He started work for an agency and during the financial crisis in 2008 his car broke down and tried to sell the vehicle which he believed was valued £3,000 but was only offered £1, 000 so he broke it down into parts and got his money back that way.

"Sobieszuk's main business was selling car parts. However, he sold these badges as a marketing tool. It was not his intention to sell counterfeit goods - he just didn't appreciate the intricacies of the trademark legislation."

Sobieszuk pleaded guilty to selling goods, namely a BMW bonnet badge on 8 November 2018 in contravention of a regulated trademark and three charges of possessing 448 BMW car badges, 323Volkswagen car badges and 205 Ford car badges with intent to sell on March 14, 2018.

Judge Ian Lawrie QC said: "The annual change of company names means that one impression that could be formed is that it was a smokescreen for Sobieszuk trying to avoid being detected.

"The nature in which he operated meant that he knew full well what he was doing. However, these companies are entitled to protect their trademark."

The judge sentenced Sobieszuk to an 18-month community order and ordered him to undertake 120 hours of unpaid work and pay a victim surcharge of £85.

Sobieszuk was also warned that he would be subjected to a proceeds of crime hearing later in the year.

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