Friday 30 September 2016

'Highly organised' gang jailed for selling fake Viagra in 'large scale criminal enterprise'

Helen William

Published 13/04/2015 | 18:58

Viagra
Viagra

A gang who made up to £60,000 a week selling fake Viagra through a bogus mail order fishing tackle business to customers around the world have been sentenced.

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Judge Charles Wide QC described it as a "highly organised, large-scale criminal enterprise" which risked the health of members of the public, as he sentenced the gang at the Old Bailey.

He said the "the real mischief is the catastrophic damage that could be caused" to the public, noting that genuine drug companies had pointed out that acid, brick dust and road paint had been found in fake Viagra.

The judge said the amount of money raked in by the gang was unknown but was at least £10 million. He noted that more than 100 bank accounts, in the UK and abroad, had been found and there could have been more. Receipts from 2011 showed the gang were averaging £60,000 a week.

This was a "sophisticated and carefully planned" scam which had bases in north-east Lincolnshire and Sussex, the judge said.

Neil Gilbert, 42, was sentenced to six years for his "major operational role and was the head of the Sussex operation", which offered cheap erectile dysfunction pills and other counterfeit medication, the judge said.

Gilbert, of Brighton, benefited from a multimillion-pound money laundering operation which involved transfers to Greece and Panama.

He was also sentenced to six years for offshore money laundering, four and half years for money laundering, 15 months for conspiracy to sell or supply a medicinal product without marketing authorisation, three years for selling or distributing counterfeit goods, 18 months for possession of counterfeit goods and 15 months for possession of medicinal drugs without marketing authorisation.

Mark Bristrow, 45, of Crayford, Kent, was sentenced to four years for money laundering, 12 months for conspiracy and two years for selling or distributing counterfeit goods.

The judge told him he was was the middleman in the operation and had access to bank accounts and kept about 10% of the money received - and "that in itself denotes your importance to the enterprise", resulting in him gaining "not less than £31,000 for yourself personally".

Seth Pennington, 42, of Brighton, who was described as Gilbert's right-hand man, was sentenced to five years and three and a half years on two counts of money laundering, 16 months for possession of counterfeit goods and 14 months for conspiracy to sell or supply.

All the sentences are to run concurrently.

The group used a series of front companies claiming to sell jewellery, fishing tackle and cosmetics to accept electronic payments, and laundered the proceeds through the bank accounts.

The money was transferred into accounts, in the UK and overseas, that were held by gang members or their relatives before being withdrawn or used to sustain the business, the court heard.

The court heard that the conspiracy lasted eight years from 2004 and continued even after the gang were arrested in September 2011 following an investigation by an industry watchdog.

Kristina Soufalakis, 27, of Brighton, was involved in the day-to-day management of the operation including keeping records.

She was involved in laundering money to Greece, Barbados and Turkey.

She was sentenced to two years and six months for money laundering, 12 months for conspiring to sell or supply a medicinal product without a marketing authorisation and 20 months for offshore money laundering.

Catherine Laverick, 47, of Ulceby, north Lincolnshire, was in day-to-day control of the operation in north Lincolnshire, and received £175,000 to £266,000.

She was sentenced to three years and 10 months for money laundering, two and a half years on another count of money laundering and 15 months for conspiracy to supply.

Thomas Laverick, 24, who was based in Thailand, had come back to England to "face the music". He pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud and one of money laundering, and received a 14-month suspended sentence.

The court heard that he suffers from Asperger's Syndrome and had suffered from the corrupting influence of his father who kept him isolated and away from school.

Sarah Laverick, 26, of Ulceby, was sentenced to 16 months for money laundering and four months for fraud. Her sentence was suspended but she was ordered to do 200 hours of supervised unpaid work.

Hugh Adair, 37, of Ulceby, was sentenced to 12 months for conspiracy and four months for fraud. Both sentences were suspended but he was ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work.

Donna Denton, 40, of Cleethorpes - who set up card facilities said to be for the sale of jewellery but they were actually to enable payment from customers for the unlicensed medicines - received a suspended 18-month sentence and was ordered to abide by a tagged curfew.

Lee Pettitt, 44, of Brighton, who was involved in opening bank accounts and money laundering, received a 22-week suspended sentence. He was ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work.

Sentencing of another defendant Darrell Jacob, 37, of Peacehaven, East Sussex, is to take place at the Old Bailey on May 29.

Press Association

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