Conmen jailed for selling thousands of fake Northern Soul vinyls by taking advantage of resurgence
· Phoebe Southworth
One of the fake vinyls found by police Credit: British Phonographic Industry/PA
A group of elderly vinyl conmen have been jailed for selling thousands of fake Northern Soul records online, taking advantage of its resurgence.
The men, all aged in their 60s, manufactured and distributed 55,000 unlicensed records from the 1960s in a scheme which cost the music industry £500,000 in lost profits.
Vinyl is experiencing a revival in the UK, with 4.1 million records being sold last year – the highest number for 26 years. Particularly rare items can sell for thousands of pounds to the highest bidder on the internet.
Alan Godfrey, 66, Christopher Price, 68, Robert Pye, 66, and Stephen Russell, 65, all pleaded guilty to copyright and trademark crimes.
Unofficial copies of original recordings the group sold included Marvin Gaye's This Love Starved Heart Of Mine, Bettye Swann's Kiss My Love Goodbye, Major Lance's Investigate, Art Freeman's Slippin Around With You, Brenda Holloway's Before You Break My Heart and Michael and Raymond's Man Without a Woman. Original recordings for each artist can be worth hundreds of pounds each.
Charges were brought against the men after a four-year investigation by detectives from the South Wales Organised Crime Squad and specialist music industry investigators the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), which represents record companies in the UK including Warner Music, Sony Music Entertainment, and Universal Music Group.
The BPI came across the operation after test purchasing vinyl records sold online. They discovered the products had defects like misspellings, blurred typefaces and the words 'not for sale', 'promotional copy' or 'DJ copy' written on them. Others had different artists listed on alternative sides of the records.
Robert Pye, pictured, was jailed for ten months Credit: Wales news service
Price and Russell were manufacturing and selling the recordings, while Godfrey and Pye were involved in sales between November 2013 and October 2016.
Records with Warner Brothers trademarked labels were found at all the men's homes. Russell, who made £1,000 a month from the sales, had been dealing records for about 10 years and his house was stacked with boxes of vinyl, Cardiff Crown Court heard.
The Performing Rights Society, which pays royalties to artists when their work is used, said Godfrey, Pye and Price had all registered with them.
Analysis of bank accounts in Godfrey's name showed he made transfers of £101,518 to Pye and his HSBC account contained credits of £77,957 from PayPal.
Godfrey's NatWest account had Amazon credits worth £10,905 and Paypal credits worth £152,254, despite tax record for the period showing he declared no income between 2010 and 2016.
Godfrey, from Bridgend, Russell, from Kidderminster, and Pye, from Ipswich, were all convicted of six counts of unauthorised use of a trade mark.
Price, from Broughton, Kidderminster, was convicted of two counts of unauthorised making of a copyright work, and three counts of unauthorised use of a trade mark.
Pye was jailed for 10 months and Russell for eight months, while Price and Godfrey were handed suspended sentences for eight and nine months respectively.