Five fraudsters have been sentenced to a total of 700 hours of community service and 70 months suspended prison sentence after a four-year investigation.

Thurrock Council’s Trading Standards team has completed the counterfeit investigation into five people suspected of importing, manufacturing, distributing and selling counterfeit handbags, purses, clothing, perfume and accessories.

Officers interviewed all of the defendants and conducted a thorough investigation.

They are Laura O'Keefe, 36, of Howell Drive, Corringham, Kimberley Chalk, 41, of Rookery View, Grays, Toni Noonan, 45, of Oakway, Grays, Jacklyn Grimes, 47, of Cample Lane, South Ockendon and Mohammed Haydari, 37, of Great Galley Close, Barking.

In 2013, officers received intelligence alleging O’Keefe was selling counterfeit goods via a Facebook page called “Lau Laus”.

Officers test purchased a bag which was examined by Mulberry and confirmed as counterfeit.

In April 2014, officers executed a warrant at O’Keefe’s home address and seized a mobile phone, computer and notebook. The mobile phone was forensically analysed and along with the notebook identified Noonan as O’Keefe’s supplier.

Complaints had already been received alleging that Noonan was selling counterfeit goods via her Facebook page, “Beez Neez” while using her home as a retail shop.

A similar warrant was executed at Noonan’s home address and a mobile phone, paperwork and 56 branded items were seized. Noonan was arrested on behalf of the Council’s Counter Fraud team in relation to benefit fraud offences.

Samples collected were examined by Mulberry, Hermes and other brands who confirmed items were counterfeit.

In addition, officers had received complaints about a third individual, Chalk, alleging that she was selling counterfeit goods via her Facebook page “Crystalmad Jewellery”, Another test purchase was undertaken and confirmed as counterfeit.

In July 2014 a warrant was executed and mobile phones, computers, paperwork were seized along with 49 handbags and purses which were all confirmed as counterfeit.

In October 2014, officers worked in partnership with colleagues from Essex Police, Metropolitan Police and Waltham Forest Trading Standards to execute three warrants simultaneously.

Officers targeted the home address of Grimes, the former home address of Haydrari in Walthamstow and two storage units used by Haydari in Leytonstone.

At Haydari’s home address, officers seized mobile phones, a laptop, self-storage paperwork and cash.

In the self-storage units officers seized more than 1,200 counterfeit handbags, purses, watches and accessories. In addition, 5,900 unbranded handbags and 7,500 banded badges and zips ready to convert them to ‘counterfeit’ products.

At Grimes’ home address, officers seized 1,100 counterfeit handbags, purses and accessories in addition to 600 branded badges ready to be applied to plain handbags and purses.

The investigation revealed that Grimes was importing the badges and supplying products to Noonan and others – including via her Facebook page ‘Jackies bits and bobs’.

Leader of the Council, Rob Gledhill said: “This investigation began after complaints about those involved and their activity through Facebook groups and pages.

"I’m particularly proud of the tenacity our team has shown, working alongside other agencies to ensure not only those individuals who we were initially made aware of were brought to justice but the entire supply chain.

“The judge ordered the forfeiture of the counterfeit goods which will be destroyed or recycled where possible.

“I’m very pleased an accredited financial investigator will now seek to recover the money earned from this illegal activity under the Proceeds of Crime Act and we will be seeking to recover our costs at the confiscation hearing in February 2018.”

Judge Ian Graham said: "This was a significant and long-running enterprise and it is clear that large quantities of income and profit were generated."

He described Haydari as being “at the top of the supply chain” and “instrumental in the importation of these goods”.

When he addressed all of the defendants he said: "It is clear that you knew what you were doing was illegal.”

He added that previous warning “should have brought you all to your senses”.

Mr Gledhill added: “The sale of counterfeit goods not only harms legitimate businesses but is often linked to other criminality.

“My thanks go to the police and trading standards teams across different boroughs who have all pulled together to assist during the investigation.

"I have asked officers to look at how the unpaid work hours can be used here in Thurrock, perhaps clearing litter or fly-tipping.

“Finally, these investigations would not happen, or be as successful without the intelligence from members of the public.

"Please keep reporting rogue traders and other illegal activity to the team by calling 03454 040506 so we can take action.”

On 30 June 2017 at Basildon Crown Court, the defendants were sentenced as follows:

Haydari – 18 month prison sentence suspended for 2 years, plus 200 hours of unpaid work

Noonan – 12 month prison sentence suspended for 2 years (for counterfeiting offences), plus 4 month prison sentence suspended for 2 years (for benefit fraud offences), plus 150 hours of unpaid work

Grimes – 12 month prison sentence suspended for 2 years, plus 150 hours of unpaid work

O’Keefe – 12 month community order, plus 100 hours of unpaid work

Chalk – 12 month community order, plus 100 hours of unpaid work