A man has been jailed after trading standards officers uncovered £33,000 worth of illegal tobacco and £22,000 in cash stuffed into wardrobes and under his bed.
Michael Wallace of Tyldesley Old Road in Atherton, was imprisoned for 20 months following an operation carried out by Cheshire East Council’s trading standards team.
The 58-year-old fraudster was handed the custodial sentence at Cheshire Crown Court after pleading guilty to seven offences under the Fraud Act, the Trade Marks Act and the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations Act.
The court heard how Wallace had made a “very successful” living from selling counterfeit and non-duty paid tobacco at a huge profit, often operating in Cheshire East.
He operated the business from his home in Atherton.
Police and trading standards officers from the council raided his property and discovered illegal tobacco products valued at more than £33,000.
They also recovered more than £22,000 in cash which was hidden in a wardrobe, chest of drawers and under a bed.
Sentencing Wallace, Judge Simon Berkson QC described Wallace’s activities as a “commercial operation of products that should never have been sold in the UK at all.”
Cheshire East Council will now seek to recover the financial benefit of Wallace’s crimes through the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Janet Clowes, the council’s cabinet member in charge of community safety, said: “People who deal in illegal tobacco products are likely to encourage others, including children and young adults, to smoke and to buy them.
“More people are attempting to give up smoking, but the easy availability of cheap cigarettes, can make their habit more difficult to break.
“I would like to thank our trading standards officers and Cheshire police, for their excellent work undertaken to end this illegal operation and sending another fraudster to prison.
“We are determined to identify more of these types of criminals and haul them in front of the courts so they are exposed and punished.”
The seizure included non-duty tobacco and counterfeit tobacco which cannot be legally sold in the UK.
Anyone with information about similar criminal activity should telephone the Tackling Tobacco hotline on 0300 999 0000, or report it online at:www.keep-it-out.co.uk