UPDATE: Man who sold counterfeit items sentenced to 15 months in prison

Rosie Mullaley rmullaley@thetelegram.com
Published on February 21, 2013

Donald Strowbridge, the man who sold counterfeit products such as flat irons and sports clothes, was sentenced to 15 months in jail this morning at provincial court.

Strowbridge was also given three years' probation and fined $5,000. He was also ordered to pay restitution to the two women he defrauded.


(Earlier story)

A man’s crooked scheme to pass off faux brand-name hair straighteners and other merchandise as the real deal has gotten him some heat.

Donald John Strowbridge of St. John’s will be sentenced today at provincial court for selling counterfeit items — including flat irons, sports clothing, hats and purses — and defrauding customers who paid for car parts but didn’t receive them.

“He doesn’t care if he hurts anybody else because the financial gain is significant,” Crown prosecutor Neil Smith said Wednesday during Strowbridge’s sentencing hearing.

Strowbridge, 55, pleaded guilty to seven charges — selling an infringing copy of a work, forgery of trade marks and trade descriptions, two counts of fraud under $5,000 and three counts of breaching probation.

The offences occurred in 2010.

According to the facts of the case, which were read in court, Strowbridge — who operates a business called NFLD Imports — was first warned by the RCMP federal enforcement section to stop selling the items early in the year.

On Jan. 24, 2010, he was displaying items at the Avalon Mall. Officers seized them and told him that if he continued to sell these items, he would be charged.

Police asked him to sign a warning and consent to the forfeiture and destruction of the counterfeit goods in lieu of proceeding with charges, but Strowbridge refused.

And that didn’t stop him from continuing to sell the items.

Eight months later, on Sept. 24. 2010, he was spotted by a plain-clothed RCMP officer selling several baseball caps with logos, backpacks, clothing, all bearing logos, such as Fox Racing, DC, Hurley and Nike. The back seat of Strowbridge’s vehicle was stuffed with NHL jackets and other clothing items. The officer also saw several CHI straightening irons on hood of the car, plus another box full of them in the back seat.

A month later, an officer saw Strowbridge near the intersection of Kenmount Road and Topsail Road, near Paradise, selling counterfeit items from a mini van.

Items seized by police included five belt buckles bearing the trademarks of various NHL and MLB teams, two hockey jerseys — with the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs trademark and insignia logos — baseball caps, with the trademark and insignia logos of the Toronto Blue Jays, two packages of Gillette razor blades and six CHI flat irons.

Farouk Systems Inc. are the manufacturer of CHI flat irons and sells its products through exclusive distributors, such as PBS.

Those distributors only sell their products to hair salons which are the only licensed retailers. Strowbridge was neither a licensed retailer nor an exclusive distributor.

On April 9, 2010, Farouk Systems Inc. filed a civil action against Strowbridge. Since he didn’t file a defence, a default judgment was rendered to have him pay $49,000.

At the time he committed his most recent crimes, Strowbridge was serving a conditional sentence for similar charges two years before.

He had been ordered to pay

$17,845, which included fines from Revenue Canada for failing to pay income tax.

He has yet to make a payment on either of the court orders.

His fraud charges from the recent case stem from claims that Strowbridge took money from two women, who ordered car parts but didn’t get them.

One woman from Grand Falls-Windsor paid Strowbridge $1,150 from her Visa.

“I trusted this man with my money and I didn’t have much of it,” she wrote in her victim impact statement.

The other woman — who paid Strowbridge $574  — wrote that the incident has caused her to distrust people.

“I was one of those individuals who always looked for the good in everyone,” she wrote. “This is no longer the case and I find myself questioning the sincerity, integrity and honesty of others.”

When Strowbridge took the stand, he apologized to the victims.

“I’m terribly sorry,” he said. “It will never happen again.”

He said he worried about his three elderly pets and what would happen to them if he were to get a lengthy jail term.

He said he also fears that if he goes to prison, he would get deprived of his medication, which he takes for depression and anxiety.

Defence lawyer Jon Noonan said the overall value of the merchandise was not high.

“This wasn’t a sophisticated scheme,” he said. “And there’s a certain amount of buyer-beware. That’s no excuse for what he did, but these were not vulnerable people.”

Noonan said a 90-day intermittent sentence is more appropriate to allow Strowbridge to care for his pets and continue his business, which he’s been operating since 1991. He also suggested a lower fine of $1,000 and two or three years’ probation.

In all, the Crown is seeking a 21-month jail term — including 15 months for the frauds — with two to three years’ probation, a $10,000 fine and a restitution order to be paid to the two female victims.

Provincial prosecutor Jeff Summers said innocent people were hurt.

“This goes to the heart of what these frauds were,” he said. “This affects every person’s trust with the system.”

And the fact that Strowbridge continues to run his business, he said, demonstrates that he “seems to have zero insight” into his criminal behaviour.

Smith, the federal prosecutor, said the fact that police had warned Strowbridge but yet he continued to sell the items, indicates he doesn’t take responsibility for his actions.

“He professes remorse on the stand, but I suggest his actions speak louder,” he said.

Judge Mike Madden will render his sentencing decision this morning.

“So, Mr. Strowbridge,” the judge said, “if you need to take any steps in regards to your pets, today is the last day.”



Twitter: @TelyCourt