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The women have been sentenced for manufacturing and importing counterfeit DVDs and selling them on to unsuspecting consumers - primarily through eBay.
During three raids that were carried out by Suffolk Trading Standards from February 2008, over 2,250 DVDs were seized. The family admitted to making at least £80,000.
Susan Steel, 54, was sentenced to 12 months in prison and was acknowledged as the prime mover in the operation, whilst her sister Julie-Anne Steel, 41 of Holland Rise, Huntinghfield, Halesworth was sentenced to 10 months.
Susan’s son and daughter-in-law, Darren and Mandie Steel, both 37, were each sentenced to 7 months, suspended for 18 months and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work within the next 18 months.
Ipswich Crown Court heard how the family had used multiple eBay usernames, PayPal and bank accounts to run their illegal enterprise. In total, 27 bank accounts, 34 PayPal accounts and in excess of 50 eBay usernames were eventually linked to the four family members.
Trading Standards had received numerous complaints from consumers but initial enquiries with eBay did not link the family members due to the false registration details they had provided.
In February 2008 Trading Standards Officers raided properties belonging to Susan and Julie–Anne when large quantities of computer equipment and counterfeit DVDs were seized. A further raid was carried out in July 2008 at a property rented by Darren and Mandie following evidence that they had continued the counterfeiting activities and had replaced the equipment seized in the initial raids in February.
During the hearing, Judge John Devaux commented that the families’ activities had been "thoroughly dishonest" and praised the prosecution’s case summary for being “most helpful” as these types of cases can be extremely difficult and complicated to investigate. He also commented; “what may have started as an amateur operation had become professional over time."