UK: Three Caught With Pants Down In Counterfeit Underwear Scheme
Caught with their goods around their ankles, three conspirators received sentences Monday for selling counterfeit designer underwear, in a scheme which netted them just under £400,000 (US$500,000), the City of London Police reported.
Pathum Percy Ponweera Arachchige Don, 36, along with Bashir Elsawahli, 44, and his sister Guncha Elsawahli, 45, were arrested with thousands of counterfeit underwear items. But not before they managed to sell thousands more online for almost half a million dollars in illicit revenue.
In March 2017, a legitimate luxury underwear brand issued a cease and desist letter to the trio, after discovering counterfeit luxury garments on eBay under the account name FANCY_INDEX.
The unnamed company received a response from a ‘John S’, who claimed to live in India and alleged he was not aware the underpants were counterfeit. Police, however, confirmed that all three lived in the UK, with Don residing in a London borough and the two Elsawahlis just north in Hertfordshire.
While the group took down its underpant listings, a few days later they were back in business with the account renamed to TRUE.STYLES.
“Despite being aware that selling fake goods to the public is against the law, Pathum Don, Bashir Elsawahli and Guncha Elsawahli continued to operate an illegal business,” said Detective Constable Geoff Holbrook, from the London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU).
Holbrook went on to say how the trio went to great lengths to conceal their tracks by laundering their hundreds of thousands in ill-gotten gains through various bank accounts.
Investigators identified two accounts in particular, through which they say the Elsawahlis laundered 95 payments for more than £300,000 ($375,000). One account was owned by Bashir and the other owned by Guncha, authorities said.
Don, meanwhile, received several payments totalling tens of thousands of pounds. Pseudonyms such as ‘Disni Don’ and ‘Pathum Don’ were employed to help cover their tracks.
Ultimately, investigators believe that the conspirators sold 18,567 pieces of counterfeit underwear through their eBay account.
Police did not immediately reply when asked to comment on the brand of the underwear, nor on what became of the £394,241 ($492,000) Don and the Elsawahlis raked in from selling the knockoff knickers.
Officers attached to PIPCU executed two search warrants in Hertfordshire in December 2017, where they arrested Bashir and seized almost 2,500 counterfeit garments. A later search of Bashir’s mobile phone and laptop confirmed the trio’s ties to one another.
It is unknown at this time if there are others still at large attached to the undercover conspiracy.
Convicted of unauthorized use of a trademark, Don received a sentence of 21 months imprisonment. Bashir received a suspended sentence of 18 months, while Guncha was handed a 12 month community order.