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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

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School bus driver caught with thousands of counterfeit cigarettes

A school bus driver was caught with thousands of counterfeit cigarettes after bulk buying them to sell on.

Fifty-five-year-old William Morris was approached by someone on his estate and “given an offer he couldn’t refuse,” magistrates in Workington heard.

When his house was searched by trading standards and police, 4,400 fake cigarettes were found and 3,600 of them had already been earmarked for sale.

Tariq Khawam, prosecuting on behalf of trading standards, said they had been tipped off by Crimestoppers that he had been selling cigarettes illegally.

A team of officers from trading standards, Cumbria police, HM Revenue and Customs and the Trading Standards North West Illicit Tobacco Team visited Morris’s home in May, where they seized 3,600 Imperial Classic Red cigarettes and 800 Jin Ling cigarettes.

Morris, of Windermere Road, Mirehouse, bought 40 packets for £480, with each one containing 200 cigarettes. “He told officers he had sold 18 packets to friends and family for around £35 each, totalling up to £630,” Mr Khawam said.

Mr Khawam said subsequent examination revealed that both brands were not labelled in accordance with UK tobacco product legislation which provides important information on the content of the cigarettes and statutory health warnings.

The Imperial Classic Red cigarette packages were found to be unauthorised, counterfeit copies of the genuine brand.

Ryan Foley, defence solicitor, said Morris had been “approached by someone on the estate and given an offer which he couldn’t refuse.”

“He purchased the cigarettes not knowing that they were counterfeit,” he said. “The reason for purchasing them was to sell to friends and family.”

Mr Foley said his client had recouped the full amount of money back from his friends and family.

“He hadn’t realised that what he had done is a criminal offence,” he added. “He feels that by his actions he has let a number of people down.”

Morris, who admitted three offences of selling illegal tobacco products, was fined £240 and ordered to pay £1,088 court costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Following yesterday’s hearing, Cumbria’s Trading Standards warned others about the selling illegal tobacco products and said they took the offences very seriously.

Angela Jones, Trading Standards service manager said: “This case highlights the consequences of dealing in illicit tobacco products in our communities.

“The availability of illegal tobacco makes it easier for children and young people to smoke and helps fund organised crime.”

Anyone with information regarding the supply of illicit tobacco products in Cumbria can contact Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 040506 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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