A TRADER who dealt in counterfeit football kits and other sportswear has been locked up for 18 months.

Christopher Smith used sales websites Gumtree and Shpock as well as Facebook to sell the £20 strips which he imported from China.

When trading standards officers raided his home in Saltburn in November 2016, they found an attic had been converted to store the merchandise.

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Prosecutor Andrew White told Teesside Crown Court that 70 boxes containing more than 2,000 items were taken from the house.

Mr White said they were mainly football strips and tracksuits, but there was also designer watches and handbags and cufflinks - all bought from the Far East.

In the three-and-a-half months between August that year and the raid, Smith had paid £32,000 overseas for orders.

"That shows the scale of this operation," Mr White told Judge Howard Crowson. "Multiple listings of football kits had been filed [online] since July 2016. He knew the goods were not genuine. One text he sent said 'I reckon with kids' kits, I would not even get done for it. She [his contact in China] can find a factory to copy anything'."

The court heard how a trading standards officer from Redcar and Cleveland Council made a test purchase of two Barcelona strips with the Nike logo.

A colleague called Smith on his mobile phone and arranged to buy two England kits for £40, said Mr White.

After the raid and seizure of the boxes, the 42-year-old restocked and began selling the fake items on eBay, and another council officer bought a Barcelona tracksuit.

A second search was carried out in April last year, and officials took away a further seven boxes.

Nigel Soppitt, mitigating, told the court Smith did not want to let down his customers, and started trading again shortly before Christmas.

Mr Soppitt said the father-of-two was having money troubles when he began his illegal trading.

He said: "He has lost money, will continue to lose money and may well lose his home. It will be in jeopardy."

Smith, of Ruby Street, Saltburn, admitted three charges of distributing goods with a false trademark, two of possessing goods with a false trademark, removing criminal property, transferring criminal property, and being concerned in the acquisition of criminal property.

Judge Crowson told him: "If you had stopped when you were first interrupted, I might have been able to suspend the sentence. These are trademarked brands that are sold at premium prices. It dilutes their brand if other are able to buy them at much reduced prices."