David and Clare Rennie enjoyed a lavish lifestyle by selling football shirts, balls and boots supposedly signed by some of the world’s most famous players on their website, FA Premier Signings.
The 46-year-old man, of Stroud Close, was found guilty of running a fraudulent business and money laundering at Bournemouth Crown Court on Friday (January 12) following a four-day trial.
His 45-year-old wife, of Hamilton Close, pleaded guilty to the same charges last Monday (January 8).
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Shoppers from across the globe were conned into buying the shirts, with around 4,500 people thought to have bought the fake items in nine years from 2007, the court heard.
The business netted the Rennies more than £1m which was spent on lengthy yearly holidays to Florida for the family and luxury cars.
Acting on a complaint, Dorset Trading Standards revealed the couple’s deceit by buying a Manchester United FC shirt ‘signed’ by Rooney for £150 but experts concluded the signature was fake.
When trading standards officers raided the couple’s home in January last year, they found a significant number of unsigned football shirts stored in an office and most matched the shirts advertised online.
Officers believed that when a customer placed an order, David Rennie would sign the shirt, make a certificate of authenticity and send it out.
The signatures on the FA Premier Signings ‘certificates of authenticity’ were also fake and officers found a self-inking stamp in the office in a fictitious name that was used to sign each certificate.
Principal trading standards officer Neil Martin, who led the investigation for Dorset County Council, said: “This was a deliberate and long-term fraud that conned 4,500 people into buying fake signed football memorabilia.
“To gather evidence in this case we have had to contact a number of FA Premier Signings’ customers to tell them the items they purchased are fake and as such are worthless.
“This is after they have spent upwards of £150 for a single signed shirt to over £700 for a squad signed shirt.
“There are a number of genuine memorabilia business that spend a lot of time and money ensuring that the items they supply are genuine.
“We are very grateful to some of these companies who helped us with this case and gave evidence in court to explain how this specialist market operates.”
The pair were released on bail and will be sentenced at Bournemouth Crown Court on February 16.