Huge fine for illegal trader

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A CITY trader has been fined a total of £40,000 and ordered to pay more than £25,000 in costs after selling thousands of illegal number plates.

In addition £600,000 was confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act from accounts that benefited from the criminal acts.

Steven John Clarke, 27, appeared at Aylesbury Crown Court, yesterday (Mon 19th) December 2011, after pleading guilty at a previous hearing to four offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994.

Yesterday (19th), he also pleaded guilty to 15 offences under the Vehicles (Crime) Act 2001, both sets of offences related to internet based company No1 Showplates Ltd.

He was fined £34,000 for the offences under the Vehicles (Crime) Act 2001, and £6,000 for the Trade Marks Act offences, as well as £25,452.85 prosecution costs. An order was made that all of these financial penalties should be paid within two months. The above was in addition to a Confiscation Order

that all proceeds derived from the criminal acts in the sum of £600,000 were taken from accounts that were frozen by a Restraint Order earlier in the year.

The main problems with No 1 Showplates Ltd were: They failed to register their business with the DVLA, a legal requirement and some plates also had mis-spaced characters (to give the appearance of a name or word), and they failed to put their business details on the bottom of the vehicle registration plate.

Some of the vehicle registration plates had registered trade marks applied to them, without the consent of the trade mark owner, an offence under the Trade Marks Act 1994.

The investigation was carried out by Milton Keynes Council’s Trading Standards team and Central Bedfordshire Council’s Financial Investigation Unit, as well as the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). The investigation started after Trading Standards received a tip off from the DVLA.

Mr Clarke, of Paradise, Newton Longville, sold more than 175,000 illegal number plates over a three-year period, from the business.

Councillor Peter Geary, MCK’s Cabinet Member responsible for Trading Standards, said: “There may have been many unwitting members of the public who bought plates - seemingly for a good price - in good faith, but who subsequently were stopped by the police and found themselves out of pocket having to replace the plates with road legal ones. This case has been an excellent example of partnership working.”

Councillor Brian Spurr, Central Bedfordshire Council’s Executive Member for Sustainable Communities Services, said: “It is no longer acceptable for those who break the law to profit from their offending. This case is an excellent example of where the Proceeds of Crime Act has been used to recover a defendant’s ill gotten gains. We will continue to work with Milton Keynes as well as other enforcement agencies to achieve the Financial Investigation Unit’s aim of ‘taking the money out of crime’.“ A DVLA spokesperson said: “The law is clear that number plate suppliers must be registered with the DVLA, request entitlement and identity documentation before supplying number plates and maintain records of these checks for three years. This case demonstrates that number plate suppliers must comply with the law and that Trading Standards and the DVLA will continue to actively seek out businesses that do not comply and take enforcement action.”

MKC’s Head of Trading Standards, Karen Ford added: “This has been a very successful joint operation with the DVLA and Bedfordshire Financial Investigations Unit. It has culminated in the defendant losing some £600,000, plus the fines and costs, which came from his criminal activities. Wherever possible Trading Standards are hitting the criminals hard, where it hurts, in their pockets. The confiscation money will be split between the Court Service, central government and Trading Standards and will be ploughed back in to fighting crime.”