Custodial sentences for family counterfeiting business

May 2007

Record industry, film industry

According to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), counterfeiting costs the music industry £165m a year in lost sales as part of a total loss to piracy , including illegal downloads and file swapping, of something approaching half a million pounds in the UK and so it’s no surprise that the BPI has welcomed prison sentences for the ringleaders of what was one of Britain’s biggest and most extensive counterfeiting gangs. Sentencing after a BPI private prosecution at Durham Crown Court, His Honour Judge Hewitt, said “It is clear that this was a substantial operation, on a much greater scale than just friends and family. It caused an incalculable loss to the industry and would have continued had the industry not taken this action.” After a two week trial, ringleader James Glen Cowan, 41, was yesterday jailed for 2 years for conspiracy to defraud, tax evasion and benefit fraud. His wife, Ann Cowan, 38 was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud, benefit fraud (up to £30,000) and attempting to pervert the course of justice. She received a 9 month sentence suspended for 12 months and also has to spend 150 hours working unpaid in the community. The judge told her she only escaped prison because she was the mother of two young children. Andrew Wood, 36, pleaded guilty in January and was jailed for 12 months for conspiracy to defraud and tax evasion. Confiscation proceedings to seize assets are underway and due to be heard in court in July 2007. The sentences were handed down after the court heard that the trio’s extensive counterfeiting operation – a criminal enterprise concealed behind a local video store – may have involved dozens of people and generated in excess of £1.5m over five years. British record industry body, the BPI, brought a private prosecution after a routine operation led to the unveiling of an extensive and sophisticated counterfeiting operation. The BPI worked closely with film industry body, FACT, whose investigators assisted with the raids and gave evidence.

Video Drive in the seaside town of Horden, County Durham, looked like an innocuous family run film rental store in a small close-knit neighbourhood. But the court heard that the gang used the store, owned by Andrew Wood, as a front for an extensive counterfeiting ring that the BPI believes was earning tens of thousands of pounds a week at its peak. The Cowans had converted their family home and their caravan into ad-hoc factories that would have been able to produce hundreds of counterfeit CDs and DVDs every hour. This case follows on from the cases against since Paul Canning and Mark Bailey in 2005 who each received three and half year custodial sentences in April 2005 for their role in masterminding a ten-strong gang that earned £1.2 million during a counterfeiting scam.

BPI estimated total loss to the music industry from piracy in 2005 at £414 million

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