Suspended sentences have been handed to a couple who defrauded unsuspecting collectors of Cornishware pottery of more than £40,000.
Aimee Bailey, 46, and Craig Bailey, 53, purchased low cost pottery and altered it to make it appear to be rare pieces of Cornishware before selling it on to unsuspecting buyers at premium prices. The online business operated from their home in Lubenham.
Leicestershire County Council’s Trading Standards service prosecuted Aimee Bailey and Craig Bailey for fraud, after analysis of items of pottery they had sold to seven victims showed that all had been altered to appear more valuable than they were.
They each pleaded guilty to fraud when they appeared at Leicester Crown Court on Tuesday 7 November. The judge sentenced them each to 21 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, and imposed a community punishment order which means both need to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work in the community.
They were also ordered to pay compensation to the seven victims totalling £40,850. (£20,425 to pay each) and prosecution costs of £40,000 to be paid within three years (£20,000 each).
The court heard that the fraud involved Cornishware storage jars, which are popular with collectors. The jars are labelled with the names of various food items. Some of the items are very common, while rarer items sell for hundreds of pounds.
The defendants bought common, lower-priced pots, altered the wording on them and then sold them as rarer pots. In one case, Craig Bailey bought a jar marked ‘sago’ from eBay for £29.99. The label on the jar was altered to the much rarer ‘walnuts’ and then sold by Aimee Bailey for £400.
Most of the sales were conducted through a Facebook group for collectors of Cornishware, whose members were told by Aimee and Craig Bailey that they had managed to acquire so many rare pots through having bought the entire collection from a reclusive collector in Yorkshire.
Members of the group became suspicious and contacted Leicestershire Trading Standards, which launched an investigation by purchasing a pot from the Baileys and then comparing it with a pot bought by one of the victims and a genuine Cornishware item sourced directly from the manufacturer.
The pots were all sent for expert analysis, which showed that the pots sold by the Bailey had been tampered with.
In all, it was discovered that the Baileys had acquired a total of £40,000 from seven victims for items which were worth considerably less.
In mitigation, the court heard that Craig Bailey had no previous convictions, and that Aimee Bailey is of good character and has a steady income.
The judge also granted a forfeiture order for the pottery in the possession of Leicestershire Trading Standards, including items seized from the home of the Baileys and the items sold to the victims.
This fraud was organised and repeated with the sole intention of making a substantial profit on every sale.
The defendants proactively engaged online with collectors of Cornishware to scam them into buying fakes. This form of fraud can be challenging in terms of gathering sufficient evidence to bring prosecution.
This case sends a clear message to those that seek to commit fraud within a niche trading sector; you are not ‘under the radar’, we will investigate and prosecute any form of fraudulent trading that seeks to undermine a sector that by its nature is reliant on truthful trading practices.
Person:Gary Connors, head of Leicestershire Trading Standards
Anyone who believes that potentially dangerous or counterfeit products are being sold in Leicestershire can report it to Leicestershire Trading Standards using the online form.