A company trading in designer watches, both online and from retail premises in Darlington, has admitted breaching regulations relating to the unlicensed sale of such items.

TIC Trading, which traded as TIC Watches, and one of its directors, Daniel Thomas Richmond, admitted ten counts each, at Durham Crown Court.

The charges were brought by Darlington Borough Council’s trading standards department, arising from an investigation with Durham Police and other partner agencies into, what was thought to be, the suspected sale of counterfeit watches.

It resulted in a raid by trading standards officers and Durham Police on the company’s premises in Post House Wynd, in May 2021, when a “significant” number of watches were seized.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The former TIC Watches premises in Post House Wynd which was subject of a trasding standards-led

It was, at the time, described as part of a multi-agency operation targeting business and residential premises in Darlington and Sunderland, as part of a wider investigation into the import and sale of what were suspected to be inauthentic goods.

The case has seen four hearings listed at the court since last May, without any charges being put, but a provisional trial date was fixed for a contested hearing of up to three weeks to take place in June this year.

In what was listed as a “mention” in the case, at the court on Monday (March 25), the charges were put to the 42-year-old defendant, who pleaded guilty, as did his counsel, Rachel Oakdene, on behalf of the company, which went into administration, last July.

Among the designer makes of timepieces named in the charges are Emporio Armani, Michael Kors, Diesel and the Fossil Group.

All the allegations arose from the sale of such watches to various named purchasers, between September 2019 and April 2021, prior to the raid in May that year.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

The court heard the charges relate to either the possession or sale of the watches as an unlicensed trader in such brands.

Miss Oakdene said Richmond is of previous good character and she asked for the preparation of a pre-sentence report on him, by the Probation Service,

She said the defendant maintains the watches that are the subject of the charges were authentic.

Jonathan Walker, prosecuting, said the charges relate to the authorisation to sell the watches and not, whether or not, they were fake.

He said the case against the defendant was over the lack of a licence to sell such watches and not on the basis that they were counterfeit.

But he added: ”We do not accept they were genuine watches, but we don’t suggest it will make a difference.

“The case is that it was a wholesale counterfeit enterprise.”

Judge Nathan Adams said the prosecution, “could not have it both ways” and queried whether it should be resolved at a trial of issue.

But after taking instruction from the prosecution lawyers in the case, Mr Walker said: “On reflection, we take the view there’s little or no difference.”

Judge Nathan Adams, therefore, agreed to the preparation of a probation report on Richmond and listed the case for a two-hour sentencing hearing on June 27.

He said the three-week trial fixture in June could now be taken out of the list.

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Judge Adams told the defendant, of Leconfield, Darlington, he would continue to be bailed until June 27, when both he and the company would be sentenced.

He said he would give no indication as to what the sentence might be on that date.

The court was told “no evidence” is to be offered against an original o-accused in the case, a 47-year-old former director of TIC Trading, who was living in Sunderland at the time of the investigation.