Gang jailed after raking in £10million by selling fake Viagra

A counterfeit drug gang has been jailed after raking in £10million by selling fake Viagra while pretending to be a fishing tackle business. Judge Charles Wide QC described it as a ‘highly organised, large-scale criminal enterprise’ which risked the health of members of the public, as he sentenced the gang at the Old Bailey.  The UK-wide conspiracy offered cheap erectile dysfunction pills to online and face-to-face customers around the world. This was a ‘sophisticated and carefully planned’ scam which had bases in north-east Lincolnshire and Sussex, the judge said. A counterfeit drug gang has been jailed after raking in £10million by selling fake Viagra. Neil Gilbert (pictured left) was jailed for six years and Catherine Laverick (right) was sentenced to three years and 10 months He said the ‘the real mischief is the catastrophic damage that could be caused’ to the public, noting that genuine drug companies had pointed out that acid, brick dust and road paint had been found in fake Viagra.  RELATED ARTICLES Previous 1 Next Speeding driver high on cocaine and cannabis and twice the… Multi-millionaire owner of Nina Ricci fashion company jailed… Share this article Share One group based in southern England was headed by Neil Gilbert, 42, who made up to £60,000 a week selling unlicensed and counterfeit drugs to unsuspecting customers. The northern branch was led by Thailand-based Stephen Laverick, but his ex-wife Catherine Laverick, 47, was in charge of day-to-day operations in the UK.  And their family members and friends were recruited to assist with the massive criminal enterprise. The court heard the conspiracy lasted eight years from 2004 and continued even after the gang were arrested in September 2011 following an investigation by the drugs regulatory body, MHRA.   They had used a series of ‘front’ companies claiming to sell jewellery, fishing tackle and cosmetics to accept the electronic payments. Proceeds were then laundered through more than 100 bank accounts both in the UK and abroad. The gang offered fake Viagra pills to unsuspecting customers around the world. File photo Huge sums of money were transferred between the conspirators, sent offshore or, were withdrawn in cash in the UK or abroad. The money laundered or obtained through fraud by all of the defendants totalled £8,444,896. Prosecutor Gillian Jones said: ‘This case is not about wanting to distribute good medicines cheaply, but rather the motivation was greed, with an utter disregard for patient safety. ‘The medicines that were seized which were purported to be Viagra and Valium in fact turned out to be counterfeit,’ the prosecutor said. ‘This was big business. The proceeds of the supply of these medicines via websites which have been traced to various merchant facilities is in excess of £10 million – that is not the real figure. ‘Not all bank accounts have been identified. Some are abroad and haven’t been traced properly and some medicines were paid for in cash.’ An audit kept by Gilbert revealed that the gang received £60,000 a week from the sale of unlicensed medicines during 2011 alone – a turnover of more than £3million. The money was transferred into bank accounts held by members of the conspiracy or their relatives before being withdrawn in cash or used to sustain the business, the court heard. Miss Jones added: ‘There is no doubt a conspiracy to sell these unlicensed medicines existed. They had to set up and maintain websites through which medicines were sold, rent storage units and packing centres. ‘Offices were rented, stationary and packaging purchased, mail boxes rented to which customers posted cash and merchant banking facilities to allow payments by cards. ‘They purported to be trading fishing tackle, cosmetics or jewellery but they were just a front to hide the real merchandise which was unlicensed medicines. Seth Pennington (pictured outside the Old Bailey) who was described as Gilbert’s right-hand man and carried out the day-to-day operations under the directions of his boss, was jailed for five years Kristina Sofoulakis (left) was jailed for two-and-a-half years and Mark Bristow (right) was jailed for four years ‘As demand for the products grew the customer database widened to countries in Europe including Sweden, France and Germany.’ When banks started raising concerns about the nature of the business, the gang opened accounts offshore in Belize and Panama where fewer questions were asked. Gilbert, of Ovingdean, Brighton pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply unlicensed medicines, two counts of money laundering, possession of counterfeit Valium and possession of counterfeit Viagra.  He was jailed for a total of six years at the Old Bailey.  His partner Kristina Sofoulakis, also of Ovingdean, Brighton, admitted conspiracy to supply medicines and money laundering in the UK and offshore. She was jailed for two-and-a-half years. She had worked as a book keeper, monitoring orders and payments.  Sarah Laverick (pictured) was handed a 16-month jail term, suspended for two years and was ordered to carry out 200 hours’ unpaid work Catherine Laverick, of Ulceby, South Humberside, admitted conspiracy to supply unlicensed medicines and money laundering in the UK and abroad.  She was jailed for three years and 10 months. Her son, Thomas Laverick, was spared jail after being given a 14-month sentence, suspended for two years. He set up the fake company ‘Shore Catch’ to buy medicines and launder money.  His sister Sarah Laverick was handed a 16-month jail term, which was also suspended for two years. She was ordered to carry out 200 hours’ unpaid work. She pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering. The 26-year-old set up the fake fishing tackle company to help with buying medicines and laundered money through numerous bank accounts.  Hugh Adair (left) was given a 12-month jail term, suspended for two years and Donna Denton (right) was sentenced to eight months, suspended for 18 months Catherine Laverick’s former partner Hugh Adair was given a 12-month jail term, suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 200 hours’ unpaid work. Adair, 37, of Brighton, helped with the day-to-day running as well as facilitating payment for the purchase of