Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Thursday, 3 April 2008 15:50 UK

Pair jailed over fake autographs

Graeme Walker (left) and Faisal Madani
Graeme Walker (left) and Faisal Madani were found guilty

Two business partners convicted of forging and selling the autographs of famous sports stars have been jailed.

Graeme Walker, 45, of Connah's Quay, Flintshire, was sentenced to 30 months, at Chester Crown Court.

His supplier, Faisal Madani, 43, from Bramall, Stockport, Greater Manchester, was given a nine-month term.

The pair were convicted of 70 counts of cheating the customers of Walker's shop, Sporting Icons in Chester, which sold sporting memorabilia.

The court heard the pair had faked autographs of stars including Pele, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.

Walker was found guilty on 51 of the 53 charges against him, including dishonestly trading by selling faked signatures of Sir Alex Ferguson, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roy Keane, Steven Gerrard, Jonny Wilkinson and others.

Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard gave evidence in the trial

He was cleared of selling a fraudulent Worthington Cup Final LFC match shirt purporting to be the original match shirt worn by Michael Owen.

He was also cleared of selling a photograph with a fake signature of Owen.

Madani was convicted of 18 of the 20 charges against him including supplying many of the items to Walker.

He was cleared of selling a photograph with a fake signature of Gerrard.

Judge David Hale said to Walker: "The whole business of sporting memorabilia which has sprung up in recent years relies on honesty and authenticity.

"You were as aware as anyone how important these items were to your customers as you saw them day in and day out in the shop."

This case is not just about financial loss, it is about people's feelings as well
Judge David Hale

He added: "This case is not just about financial loss, it is about people's feelings as well.

"You claimed it was all authentic, but that was just a complete sham. You have shown utter contempt for the consumer and honest businesses.

"I accept you didn't start the business to perpetrate the fraud, but when the opportunity arose, you took the chance."

Walker was jailed for 30 months for the main count on his indictment, fraudulent trading.

He was also jailed for 12 months concurrently for each of 34 convictions under the Trade Descriptions Act and four months concurrently for each of 12 convictions under the Trademarks Act.

He was also banned from being a company director for six years.

His company, Sporting Icons Limited, was given a 500 fine for each of its 50 convictions and ordered to pay a 15 victim surcharge.

'Lied and cheated'

Madani was jailed for nine months for each of 18 convictions for supplying Walker, to serve concurrently, and given a six-year ban from holding directorships.

Judge Hale said to him: "You lied and cheated your way into positions of influence and esteem at some of this country's biggest football clubs.

"You played on the fact that your name is similar to that of a former Manchester United director [Armer Mouffac Al Midani] to win people's confidence.

"You are obviously capable of considerable dishonesty.

"You supplied those items to Graeme Walker and you well knew they would be sold on to unsuspecting members of the public."

Genuine concern at fake mementos
02 Apr 08 |  England
No evidence from forgery accused
17 Mar 08 |  England
Seller 'thought autographs real'
10 Mar 08 |  England
Autograph trial hears from Owen
26 Feb 08 |  England

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