Yorkshire market trader caught selling thousands of fake World Cup football shirts

A Yorkshire market trader was caught flogging tens of thousands of pounds of fake World Cup football shirts.

Matthew Hyett, 33, sold counterfeit merchandise from a market stall in Morley, Leeds, and on an online shop. Officers from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at City of London Police seized the items, worth an estimated loss to the industry of £70,000, during raids last October before the FIFA World Cup.

Hyett, of Batley, West Yorkshire, pleaded guilty at Leeds Magistrates Court earlier this month to the acquisition of criminal property and distributing goods bearing a false trade mark. He was sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and was also ordered to complete 150 hours of community service at Leeds Crown Court on Wednesday (August 30).

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PIPCU's Detective Constable Daryl Fryatt said: "This sentencing sends a warning to offenders whose goal is to profit from criminal activity that their actions aren't without consequences. We urge football fans to think twice before buying fake merchandise.

Matthew Hyett's market stall in Morley, West YorkshireMatthew Hyett's market stall in Morley, West Yorkshire
Matthew Hyett's market stall in Morley, West Yorkshire

"An individual may think that when buying counterfeit goods, they are only affecting a multi-million pound brand but in reality, they could be helping fund criminal activity. Whatever savings customers may pocket when buying a counterfeit item are often offset by its poor quality and the risks that come from using a product that has been manufactured illegally."

Officers from PIPCU arrested Hyett on October 10 last year. They seized 1,674 counterfeit items, worth an estimated loss to the industry of £70,000, during search warrants executed at Hyett's stall and home address. Hyett admitted that he knew the shirts were counterfeit when interviewed.

He was held during a crackdown coordinated by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and conducted by officers from PIPCU ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

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Police seized four tonnes of counterfeit football merchandise, worth an estimated loss to the industry of £500,000, in a series of raids across the country. Six people were arrested for offences related to the distribution and sale of fake goods, and £12,000 in cash was seized. The remainder of those arrested were released under investigation.

Marcus Evans, IPO's Deputy Director of Intelligence and Law Enforcement, said: "Criminal networks continue to exploit the loyalty of sports fans for their own financial gain by targeting the market with illegal counterfeit products - with little or no regard for their quality or safety. This is anything but a victimless crime.

"Overall, it is estimated that the sale of counterfeit goods contributes to more than 80,000 job losses in the UK each year by diverting funds away from legitimate traders and into the hands of criminals. This helps to sustain criminal lifestyles, as well as causing genuine harms to those workers often exploited during their production."

He added: "We welcome the actions taken to bring those involved in this type of criminality to justice, as we continue our work in partnership with industry and law enforcement to help protect the public and raise awareness of the damage counterfeits cause".