A Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards investigation has led to Mr Andrew Mark Weeks, aged 53 and of Ashby Road, Hinckley and trading as Nuneaton Print and later Yorkshire Novelty Print, pleading guilty to one offence under the Fraud Act 2006 and receiving a three year and eight month prison sentence.
His Honour Judge Barry Berlin stated that producing counterfeit licences and qualification certificates had serious ramifications for public safety. Mr Weeks had allowed people to swindle their employers and described it as “fraud to foster more fraud” which was deliberately cynical.
Mr Weeks, whose trading names were ‘Nuneaton Print’ and later ‘Yorkshire Novelty Print’ came to the attention of Trading Standards officers following a complaint received from a genuine awarding body.
An investigator working for the Construction Industry Training Board was able to purchase from Mr Weeks a Construction Plant Competence Scheme card, allowing the holder to drive dumper trucks and excavators. At no time did Mr Weeks ask the buyer if they had actually gained any qualification or undergone any training to operate these machines.
Mr Weeks, trading as Nuneaton Print had attempted to use a false Nuneaton address to hide behind. When tracked down, solicitors acting for the construction industry issued a cease and desist undertaking, which Mr Weeks signed, agreeing to stop producing counterfeit products. However, he quickly changed his business name to ‘Yorkshire Novelty Print’ and carried on as before.
Warwickshire Trading Standards officers then began their own investigation and contacted Mr Weeks to purchase a GSCE certificate. Mr Weeks, who sold certificates and licences online, was happy to provide undercover officers with a GCSE certificate which read ‘Mathematics B, English A and Geography B’. The certificate was a good quality copy of an examination board original. Officers paid £25.99 and were never asked if they had taken or passed any of these exams.
A Trading Standards-led raid on Mr Week’s business address unearthed more counterfeit certificates and licences including: driving licences, O and A level certificates, GCSE certificates, City & Guilds certificates, a PhD degree certificate, first aid certificates, competence in demolition, construction site workers and electrical installation certificates, security close protection licence cards, National Union of Students cards, a certificate in Occupational Health and a registered carers card.
Issuing bodies were able to confirm that they were counterfeit.
Mr Weeks had even produced counterfeit certificates for himself.
At Warwick Crown Court on Friday, October 19 2018, Andrew Mark Weeks was sentenced to three years and eight months imprisonment. He had pleaded guilty to one offence under the Fraud Act 2006 at an earlier hearing.
Warwickshire County Councillor Andy Crump, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety said: “Mr Weeks has committed an incredibly serious offence that could mean that hundreds of people across the UK are employed in jobs and trades that they are unqualified to undertake and in some cases, particularly in construction, electrical installation and caring professions may be putting lives at risk, not to mention those who may be driving on our roads today with fake licences.”
Philip Seccombe, Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner said: “The internet is now a key marketplace for genuine and honest businesses to sell their goods and services. But unfortunately, criminals have increasingly taken advantage of this technology to sell counterfeit and unsafe products in the belief that they can do so anonymously and without fear of discovery. I fund Trading Standards to tackle cyber-related crime and this investigation and successful prosecution clearly illustrates that fraudsters are not being allowed to get away with selling fake goods online.”
As a result of the investigation, Mr Week’s computers were forensically examined and the names of individuals who had purchased certificates obtained. These names are now in the hands of the certificate awarding organisations.
Mr Weeks was selling the certificates and licences he produced for up to £30.99 each.
In mitigation, Marcus Harry, representing Mr Weeks stated that whilst his client knew what he was doing was illegal he had somehow convinced himself that a ‘novelty item’ disclaimer sent out with his products meant that what he was doing was acceptable.