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19 December 2014, 11:16 | Updated: 19 December 2014, 11:24
Hundreds of suspected fake luxury goods worth more than £10,000 have been seized in a series of raids across County Durham.
The luxury goods, which are believed to be bogus, include clothing, sports trainers, perfumes and electrical hair styling products featuring designer names such as Nike, Adidas, UGG and GHD.
Monitoring of social media along with further intelligence has led to officers, supported by police, executing four warrants in the Bishop Auckland, Crook and Peterlee areas.
More than 500 items bearing registered trademarks have been recovered, which would have netted the sellers over £10,000 and represent an estimated loss of £50,000 in sales when compared to the genuine products. Five people have been arrested and are helping officers with their enquiries.
Trading Standards officers are now calling on residents to steer clear of counterfeit goods, which are often shoddy quality and unlikely to last - and make for poor Christmas gifts.
Some items can also pose a safety risk as they will not be subjected to the rigorous testing that genuine products undergo or the strict quality controls on the materials which are used to produce them. This can prove a serious concern, particularly with fake electrical items such as hair styling products, toys and perfumes.
Joanne Waller, Durham County Council's head of environmental health and consumer protection, said:
"We urge consumers to stay clear of counterfeit goods to ensure you have a safe Christmas.
Our message to online counterfeit sellers is clear: we will find you and you will be brought to justice.
Anyone selling fake items should expect a knock at their door and could face the prospect of ten years in prison as well as unlimited fines."