The ringleader of a plot to import £17,000 worth of counterfeit Royal Mail stamps from Hong Kong has had his sentence slashed.
The delivery of a box marked gift cards, but full of fake gold-coloured first-class stamps, was intercepted and delivered to 37 year-old Christer Chinnappah, who signed for the package.
Chinnappah, of Ivy House Road, Ickenham, Hillingdon, who organised the importation, originally received two years imprisonment at Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court.
He was also ordered to pay £17,000 compensation to the Royal Mail and £5,000 costs.
However, the Court of Appeal this week confirmed Chinnappah's sentence was reduced to ten months imprisonment last year.
He only served half of that period and was released in five months.
Chinnappah pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the Royal Mail between December 1, 2013 and January 18, 2014 by obtaining and marketing counterfeit stamps.
He further pleaded guilty to two counts of entering into the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property on dates between December 10, 2013 and January 18, last year, namely the purchase of counterfeit stamps for onward sale.
His two co-defendants, newsagent Jagrut Patel, 54, of Webb's Road, Battersea, south-west London and Keith Arkell, 54, of Beacon Tree Avenue, Walthamstow, east London were found not guilty by separate juries.
Chinnappah insists he was not the ringleader, but a “middle man” and was badly advised by his legal representatives.
He says he has regrets every day that he was caught up in the scam.
Prosecutor Mr. Warwick Tatford told the court: “Chinnappah has pleaded guilty and it shows there was an arrangement of some kind involving counterfeit stamps.
“He has put his hands up that he was involved and the stamps were counterfeit.”
Part of the probe involved an undercover Post Office investigator buying a book of stamps from Patel's shop, which when analysed proved to be fake.
“The case started with one box stuffed full of counterfeit stamps and they were very good counterfeits,” explained Mr. Tatford, adding the fake stamps were sold by the forgers at 60% less than their genuine counterparts.
“These defendants knew they were getting involved in counterfeit stamps,” added the prosecutor.
Post Office investigators, assisted by the National Crime Agency, watched as Parcelforce delivered the stamps to Chinnappah.
He was was temporarily staying at a friend's house in Maplin Park, Langley, Slough.
“Mr. Chinnappah answered the door and signed for the parcel.”
It was only after his mobile phone was analysed that links to the other two defendants were found and when questioned Arkell said he was involved in stamps, but only buying legitimate discounted ones.