An online retailer has been jailed for selling counterfeit watches, following an investigation by North Yorkshire trading standards officers.

Watch used to prosecute fake after investigation by North Yorkshire Trading Standards

Warren Stuart Chung-Williams, of Saltram Crescent in London and his company, Wristy Business Ltd, pleaded guilty to four offences connected with the sale - and possession for sale - of counterfeit watches at Teesside Crown Court in Middlesbrough today (Monday, June 3.)

The prosecution was brought by North Yorkshire County Council’s Trading Standards service.

The court heard that trading standards officers began their investigation after receiving a complaint from Ben Gannon, a North Yorkshire resident who had bought an Emporio Armani Ceramica watch from the Wristy Business website for £145.99 in August 2018. The watch was sold with a certificate of authenticity but when it developed a fault, Mr Gannon took it to an Armani shop for repair and was told it was a fake.

A trading standards officer made a test purchase of a Michael Kors watch at a cost of £134.99 in October 2018, and that was also found to be fake.

Officers subsequently seized around 1,800 watches from a storage unit rented by the business. Evidence recovered from a computer seized at Chung-Williams’ home address showed he was buying watches directly from sources in China and bought packaging and bar codes separately to make the watches appear genuine.

The business sold watches through its own website and also through Wowcher, Fruugo and Secret Sales. Investigation of company and personal financial records showed a turnover of £1,156,610 between May 2016 and April 2018, with Wristy Business and Chung-Williams sending a total of £567,193 to China to buy watches and packaging.

Chung-Williams and Wristy Business Ltd each pleaded guilty to offences of selling fake watches to Mr Gannon and the trading standards officer, and possessing with a view to sale 399 fake Michael Kors watches and 537 fake Armani watches.

The court heard Chung-Williams has previous convictions for theft and fraud relating to counterfeit credit cards, and fraud relating to counterfeit Oyster cards. Chung-Williams was still subject to a suspended sentence for the Oyster card offending at the time that he sold the watch to Mr Gannon and so that sentence was activated. 

Sentencing Chung-Williams to 12 months imprisonment in respect of the suspended sentence and 18 months for the Trade Marks Act offences, giving a total of two years and six months, Judge Sean Morris said: “I accept that your business was dealing in a mixture of legitimate and illegitimate watches but it seems to me that you are a fraudster, you’ve been before the courts before, you’ve had a suspended sentence for stealing from employers in 2008, you then came back before the courts in 2009 when you received three years…having come out of that sentence you then were bang at it again, this time you were given a suspended sentence. 

“The purpose of the sentence is to ensure that you give up on crime but you didn’t and you’ve been bang at it again. You are a disreputable and dishonest man.”

No separate penalty was imposed on Wristy Business Ltd as Chung-Williams is its sole director. Confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act will now follow for both Chung-Williams and the company.

North Yorkshire County Councillor Andrew Lee, portfolio holder for trading standards said: “The sale and supply of counterfeit goods is damaging not only to consumers who are misled and pay large amounts of money for fakes, but also to genuine businesses, both trade mark holders and retailers, who lose money from sales and also because the brand reputation is tarnished.

“I would encourage residents not to buy fakes knowingly and to report any concerns they have about products they suspect are fake.”

Consumers can report concerns or obtain advice about fake goods from the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.

This story was published 4 June 2019