December 9 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
A man sold thousands of fake autographs of celebrities including Doctor Who actor David Tennant, duping unsuspecting fans out of about £35,000.
Andrew Sullivan, 51, sold thousands of fake signed photos of celebrities on eBay and even supplied “worthless” certificates claiming the autographs were genuine, Norwich Crown Court heard.
David Wilson, prosecuting, said Sullivan made thousands of pounds printing photos and then copying signatures of celebrities, which he sold on eBay.
“Whilst the business may have started out with legitimate intentions it quickly became one whereby on thousands of occasions the defendant was cynically faking autographs and deceiving members of the public into paying for items they thought were authentic. “The items he was selling were worthless; he was in effect printing his own money and greed must have been the underlying factor in his actions.
“The business of celebrity autographs clearly relies on honesty and authenticity. The commission of these offences undermines the trust in this market.”
Sullivan’s scam was discovered after genuine collector Derek Dubery contacted Norfolk trading standards as he thought Sullivan was selling autographs too cheaply and thought they were fake.
For example, Sullivan was selling for £30 one autograph which sold usually for £300.
The investigation by trading standards was supported by BBC Worldwide who was looking at whether Sullivan had infringed copyright.
Mr Wilson said trading standards made a test purchase of a signed photo of Bond girl Caroline Munro.
When shown the autograph she confirmed it was fake.
They also interviewed David Tennant and Billie Piper, who also confirmed that signatures were not genuine and got advice from a handwriting expert.
Trading standards officers raided the home of Sullivan in Heath Road, Lyng, and found a large quantity of signed photos, and fake certificates of authenticity.
There was also a box with screwed up photos of celebrities with practice autographs including one for former Atomic Kitten Kerry Katona, which had wrongly been signed as actress Jenny Agutter.
There were also pictures of David Tenant and Billie Piper and photos of cast members from Merlin.
Mr Wilson said that in particular undedicated autographs of David Tennant were rare and only usually given to charity.
Also found on Sullivan’s computer were documents which showed requests for autographs to stars such as Keira Knightly and Eastenders actress Samantha Womack.
Mr Wilson said that they had been written in a childlike way as if to fool the celebrity that the request had come from a fan.
Sullivan admitted a string of fraud charges including possession of an article for use in fraud and participating in a fraudulent business between November 2009 and November 6 2011 by knowingly carrying on an Internet business for a fraudulent purpose, namely by retailing forged and unauthorised celebrity memorabilia.
He also admitted infringing BBC copyright by selling photos of David Tennant and Karen Gillan.
Jailing him for 21 months Judge Nicholas Coleman told him be had ran the fraud like a sophisticated “cottage industry.”
He accepted that he was remorseful and had turned to fraud because of financial pressures but said he had produced more than 3,500 fake autographs, adding: “It’s impossible to say how many victims there are. There are many from the hundreds of victims who hold autographs, which they genuinely cherished, who now find out the autographs are valueless.”
Ian James, for Sullivan, said it was because of money problems he began to act fraudulently in what up until then had been a genuine business.
He said he was unlikely to reoffend and was genuinely remorseful,
He said that none of the customers involved had lost a great deal of money as a result of the fraud.