Woman's £80,000 designer scam shame

A mum hoarded £80,000-worth of fake designer clothes and accessories in her home – and even had lists of customers waiting to buy the fashion names.

Durham magistrates heard that Trading Standards officers and police recovered 30 bags of counterfeit clothes, shoes and handbags crammed into cupboards and the garage at the Seaham home of Fiona Clare Downes.

The 37-year-old had goods with designer label logos including Prada, Lacoste, Armani and Gucci stashed away, and a book detailing past orders and ones yet to be fulfilled.

Tests revealed that all but four of the items seized from Downes's home in Flamborough Walk, East Shore Village, were fake.

Zingra Roberts, prosecuting for Durham County Council, told the court the goods would have had a value of 80,000 if they had been genuine.

The raid, in January last year, was executed after officials received information that Downes was running the business from her home.

Miss Roberts said: "Durham County Council is becoming increasingly aware of cheap and often unsafe counterfeit goods on sale to the public, and is trying to make an effort to prevent that."

When she was interviewed, single mum-of-two Downes claimed the clothes and accessories were from a friend in Manchester, but declined to provide a name.

Miss Roberts said: "She knew she had been given a massive amount of clothes to sell, but not that it was so bad people would be particularly bothered about it."

Downes admitted one charge of breaching the Trade Marks Act.

Defending, Nick Musgrove said: "This was a matter that she became involved with against her better judgement.

"She regrets her actions and she accepts now that there are victims in these matters."

Downes was given a 12-month supervision order and ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work, at not less than six hours per week.

She must also pay the 1,114 cost of the 20-month investigation, at a rate of 50 per month.