A 70-year-old man who sold dangerous counterfeit cigarettes from his home has been handed a suspended prison sentence and left over £9,500 out of pocket.
James Simpson, of Hawthorn Square in Seaham, was found to be selling imitations of well-known cigarette brands when he was snared in an undercover sting by Durham County Council’s trading standards officers.
Officers posing as customers visited Simpson’s home on numerous occasions and were able to buy cartons of packets of counterfeit cigarettes, and ‘Brass’ branded cigarettes which had not had had the duty paid on them.
During the course of the investigation these ‘cheap white’ cigarettes were tested and found to be overly flammable – an obvious health and safety hazard.
Appearing before Newton Aycliffe Magistrate’s Court on 5 July, Simpson pleaded guilty to six counts of selling counterfeit cigarettes.
At a sentencing hearing on 11 August, Judge Simon Hickey sentenced him to eight weeks in prison for each count – 48 weeks in total – suspended for 12 months.
Simpson was also ordered to surrender £1,618 in cash that was seized from his home by trading standards officers, £6,000 that was confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act, and pay Durham County Council £2,000 in costs.
Joanne Waller, Durham County Council’s head of environment, health and consumer protection, said: “Our officers work tirelessly with partners to tackle the supply of illicit tobacco in County Durham, and this conviction shows the success of our work.
“All tobacco has a detrimental impact on the health and well-being of residents, as well as public services such as the National Health Service, while illegal tobacco has a financial impact on law abiding traders.
“People selling illegal tobacco lead a criminal lifestyle, taking from society, evading taxes and other overheads.
“We will continue our work to tackle such illegal sales and hit sellers in their pockets.”
Anyone who may suspect someone they know of being involved in the supply of illegal tobacco is asked to confidentially report their concerns to the Keep It Out hotline, on 0300 999 0000.