Court orders trader to pay back £45,000 following council investigation
Published 28 February 2011
A woman who sold counterfeit goods and committed mortgage fraud in Southwark has been ordered to pay back £45,440.95 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Maxine Stonebridge, a trader on East Street market, had pleaded guilty in court last year to possession of counterfeit goods, and this allowed Southwark Council trading standards officers, using the Proceeds of Crime Act, to launch an investigation into her assets.
The act allows for local authorities to investigate someone's criminal benefit and identify their assets. The courts determine how much has been made through crime, and how much is available to be paid by the defendant, and then set the amount that the defendant has to pay back.
In addition to selling counterfeit goods she was also found to have committed mortgage fraud in 2007 of £500,000, and the court found that as a result of her general criminal conduct she had obtained benefit of £615,652.33.
On Thursday 24 February at the Inner London Crown Court, Judge Davis ordered that the defendant, who is 53 and from Chislehurst in Kent, pay £45,440.95 and gave her six months to pay the amount. He also set a default sentence of 18 months imprisonment if the order was not paid.
The order is in addition to a sentence for the offences relating to the counterfeit goods. For those offences the defendant was sentenced to 100 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs.
Councillor Richard Livingstone, cabinet member for resources and community safety at Southwark Council, said:
"I'd like to thank the trading standards officers who pursued this case so thoroughly. It's down to the professionalism of their investigation, which uncovered the full scale of the fraud of this woman, that we have this result. Cases like this are really important in helping send a clear message that crime does not pay, and any gains from illegal activity can be recovered, years after the crime itself."
What is POCA?
It stands for the Proceeds of Crime Act. Since (2002), under the POCA councils have been able to carry out investigations and identify a defendant's benefit from their criminal activity. Traditionally this was a tool utilized by Police and HMRC.
How does it work?
Following conviction of an appropriate offence such as fraud, deception, or similar offences, Southwark Council can apply to the court for a POCA confiscation hearing. An investigation is then carried out by our accredited financial investigator. The investigator then reports to the Court on the amount of criminal benefit and the available assets. If the Court is satisfied that the defendant has benefitted from their criminal activity, it can then make a confiscation order, detailing how much must be paid by the defendant. If the defendant fails to pay the money within the timescale set by the court then they face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Where the defendant is deemed to have a criminal lifestyle, the investigation can look beyond the offences for which they were convicted. The type of investigation allows for other types of fraud such as mortgage fraud or council tax benefit fraud, to be identified.
Maxine Stonebridge pleaded guilty in Jan 2010 to possession of counterfeit goods, namely ladies clothing bearing registered trademarks.