Bishop Auckland women prosecuted after seizing fake Nike Air Max trainers worth £188,000

Two Bishop Auckland women have avoided jail after police intercepted a huge consignment of fake designer sneakers worth over £188,000.

Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court heard Joanne McKimm, 44, and Sarah Bell, 25, handled fake designer items worth tens of thousands of pounds.

The pair’s actions came to light following a 2019 investigation by Leicestershire County Council’s Trading Standards team. Investigation showed shipments of fake coaches were being sent from China to Bishop Auckland. Durham County Council’s Trading Standards team discovered that McKimm, of Yorkshire Place, Bishop Auckland and Bell, of Farm Close, Bishop Auckland, took delivery of thousands of pairs of counterfeit sports trainers between April 2018 and October 2019.

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In October 2019, Durham Trading Standards officers issued money orders to recipient addresses – including McKimm and Bell – and discovered that McKimm and Bell had signed for 38 boxes. Several boxes were opened and found to contain counterfeit Nike Air Max 270 sneakers. Officers also found unpackaged sneakers in McKimm’s address, suggesting she was aware of the contents of the boxes, as well as a small number of counterfeit garments.

While officers were at McKimm’s address, a courier arrived to collect the boxes. He was arrested and, when questioned, confirmed that he had been asked to collect the boxes from Bishop Auckland and transport them to Manchester.

In the following days, Trading Standards were informed by delivery company UPS that other packages were destined for the same addresses in Bishop Auckland. The shipments were intercepted by officers and a total of 63 boxes, containing approximately 1,500 pairs of counterfeit sneakers, were seized.

The market value of the counterfeit goods was estimated to be between £39,375 and £78,750 but, with genuine designer sneakers sold for £119.95, the estimated retail value of the sneakers seized was £188,921.25.

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Fake Nike Air Max sneakers found in packages

During the investigation, Bell’s cell phones were seized. When reviewed, they contained Facebook and WhatsApp messages between her and McKimm that suggested they were involved in the sale of merchandise, including photographs of counterfeit tracksuits and sneakers, a discussion of creating a fake Facebook account and plans to travel to Manchester to buy branded goods.

The phone also linked both Bell and McKimm to a Facebook profile that had been used to advertise sneakers matching the description of those seized, for sale at a price that indicated they were likely counterfeit. McKimm’s Macbook was also seized and was shown to contain numerous Facebook messages from a man whose name matched that given by the delivery person on the date of the initial seizures.

Delivery records from delivery company DHL showed that between April 2018 and October 2019, 225 shipments were addressed to McKimm’s and other properties, some confirmed to be from Hong Kong or China and containing shoes. False recipient names had been used, but the packages had been signed for by McKimm and Bell.

When questioned on bail, McKimm and Bell both denied involvement in counterfeit goods, but said McKimm’s friend in Manchester asked them to accept the packages. Both denied knowing what was in the boxes and said they never received any form of benefit, financial or otherwise, from the arrangement.

The couple pleaded guilty to one charge each under the Trade Marks Act 1992.

The goods were seized from McKimm's address
The goods were seized at McKimm’s address.

The court heard that neither McKimm nor Bell had prior convictions, were previously of good character and had shown genuine remorse for their actions. McKimm was given a 12-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months, ordered to undertake 80 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £128 and a contribution of £500 towards costs.

Bell received a lesser sentence, as she did not know what was in the boxes. She was ordered to undertake 80 hours of unpaid work and to pay a victim surcharge of £128 and a contribution of £500 towards costs. The seized property was destroyed.

Joanne Waller, Community Protective Services Manager at Durham County Council, said: ‘We are pleased with the magistrates’ decision to order McKimm and Bell to do community service in addition to costs which must be paid. Hopefully, this case will deter illicit merchants who think they can make easy money by scamming consumers with illegal counterfeits.

“Our Trading Standards team will always seek to protect consumers from fraudulent goods and protect legitimate businesses.”

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