Page last updated at 12:22 GMT, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 13:22 UK

Woman sold fake Diana autographs

Louise Marney
Louise Marney worked with a mystery man who has not been traced

A mother who helped run a website selling fake autographs of celebrities including Princess Diana has been given a 42-week suspended prison term.

Louise Marney, 32, from Neath, bought photographs of famous people over the internet and sent them to a mystery man who then forged the signatures.

Marney, who made 13,000, was caught after a complaint to trading standards about a Sean Connery autograph.

Celeb Factory had dozens of fakes, Swansea Crown Court heard.

These included Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Hope, Mohammad Ali, Pele, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, the Jackson Five, Simon Cowell and members of the A-Team.

Prosecuting on behalf of Neath Port Talbot Council, Ben Blakemore said that after a customer complained about the Sean Connery autograph the council's trading standards department searched her premises at Walters Road in Neath.

There they found a black-and-white photograph of Laurel and Hardy purporting to be signed by both deceased film stars. It even had a forged certificate of authenticity.

The investigation led them to the Celeb Factory website which Marney ran.

Celeb Factory website
Marney ran a website called Celeb Factory to sell the forged autographs

Council officers found forged celebrity photographs, generally ranging in price from 19.99 to 89.99 with the most expensive being a 299.99 photograph claiming to be signed by Princess Diana.

During a 10-month period, Marney had purchased 1,533 legitimate photographs from a website called moviemarket.co.uk

In interview, she told officers she then sent them on to a man only identified as "Jason".

Mr Blakemore said Marney told them Jason would then add the signatures and return them to her and she would sell them via the Celeb Factory website and e-Bay.

"Numerous assurances were given across the website on the authenticity of these items," said Mr Blakemore.

The Celeb Factory website claimed: "We guarantee that all are one-of-a-kind".

The website claimed the signatures were collected by professional autograph hunters at movie premieres, production sets and private signings.

Mr Blakemore said despite efforts by trading standards to identify and track down Jason, their enquiries proved "wholly fruitless".

Marney had pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy at a previous hearing.

In mitigation, Nic Sefton, said the telemarketer had shown "complete and utter remorse".

He added: "It's quite clear that Jason was the instigator of this venture."

Sentencing her, Judge Christopher Morton told Marney: "The website had every appearance of being sophisticated and genuine."

But he said, her business was "wholly dishonest" and added the offence was so serious that only a prison sentence was appropriate.

He suspended the 42-week term for 18 months and ordered her to carry out 200 hours of unpaid community work.

The hearing was told that Neath Port Talbot Council intended recouping some of the money under the Proceeds of Crime Act.


SEE ALSO
Pair jailed over fake autographs
03 Apr 08 |  England
How do you spot a fake autograph?
03 Apr 08 |  Magazine


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