A Croydon roofer was one of two ‘old-fashioned conmen’ found guilty today of selling over £50,000 worth of fake Banksy prints on eBay.
Grant Champkins-Howard, 44, of Birdhurst Rise, South Croydon, and associate Lee Parker, 45, from Eastbourne, each received suspended sentences of 12 months from a judge at Kingston Crown Court.
The two were also banned from selling anything on the internet for the next five years, ‘from a toothbrush to a work of art.’
The men used eBay to sell copies of official numbered prints by the Bristol-based graffiti artist, the court heard. Posing as sellers of genuine collectibles, the conmen created false ownership documents, and added limited edition numbering and fake signatures to add authenticity to their forgeries.
The fake prints were sold for up to £2,000 each, taking advantage of eBay’s global marketplace to defraud victims both in the UK and abroad.
The court heard how the two men, who had been fans and collectors of Banksy’s work for several years, had decided to perpetrate the fraud as the value of the artist’s works increased.
Detective Constable Ian Lawson, of the Metropolitan Police’s Art and Antiques Unit, said: “This was a lucrative and unscrupulous scam in which the culprits had no qualms about ripping off collectors, sometimes to the tune of several thousands of pounds. They set up e-Bay accounts using details of relatives and friends thus spreading suspicion onto these innocent people.
“The gang went to great lengths to deceive their victims and it is only right that they should face the consequences of their actions.”
Sentencing, Judge Suzan Matthews told the pair, who had pleaded guilty: “You saw a way, and exploited a way, of making a quick and easy profit.”
Referring to their victims, among whom were included both naïve buyers and seasoned Banksy experts, she added: “Regardless of their knowledge, they were all conned. All were tricked.”
Prosecutor Richard Mandel condemned the pair’s activities, noting their negative effects on the wider market for collectibles. “It stands to reason that persistent fraud on eBay undermines the integrity of that now very important marketplace,” he said.
An eBay spokesperson said the company was delighted that the fraudsters had been brought to court, adding: “Our long-standing commitment to this case highlights our intolerance for those fraudsters who attempt to sell fake items on our site. We will continue to build on our work with law enforcement agencies to make sure that justice is served if anyone decides to try their luck.”
Champkins-Howard and Parker were also ordered to complete 240 hours of unpaid community service work over the next year.