Dodgy cigs trio jailed

THREE members of a South Yorkshire criminal gang who sold more than 600,000 dodgy cigarettes smuggled into the UK from Eastern Europe have been jailed for a total of six and a half years.

Tuesday, 11th September 2007, 9:36 am
Updated Tuesday, 11th September 2007, 12:15 pm

Self-proclaimed 'wheeler dealer' James Sanders effectively ran a 'cigarette wholesale business' from his home in Athersley, Barnsley, distributing thousands of pounds worth of counterfeit cigarettes from Poland to friends and associates to sell, Sheffield Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Andrew Stubbs said the operation was uncovered when police officers carried out co-ordinated dawn raids at four properties in Barnsley in September 2005.

They targeted the home Sanders, aged 35, shared with partner Nicola Leishman, 32, the business premises of his employer Peter Haigh and the homes of pal Paul Dansby and Nicola's father Kevin Porter.

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They found more than 600,000 counterfeit cigarettes, 33,500 cash and a distribution network of 200 contacts.

Experts estimated the group avoided paying more than 135,000 in duty.

Mr Stubbs said: "It was plain by the amount of cigarettes and money found that this operation had been going on for some time. It is also claimed without the intervention of the authorities in September 2005 this operation would have continued."

At the home Sanders shared with Leishman, in Laithes Crescent, police found two transit vans and a garage piled high with boxes of fake Mayfair Kingsize, Regal and Superkings cigarettes.

Eleven pairs of fake Nike trainers were discovered in the garage and a Co-op supermarket bag containing 23,000 cash in the house. Further bundles of cash totalling 1,100 were found in the dining room along with lists of customers.

A CS gas canister and a police-style stun gun were also discovered at the gated bungalow.

The court heard despite declaring a modest annual income of around 17,000 a year to the taxman, the couple's home had a conservatory and was furnished with leather sofas and flat screen TVs.

Sanders was jailed for three years nine months after admitting two counts of money laundering, two of possessing illegal weapons and one of possessing counterfeit goods. He claimed he wasn't the linchpin of the operation, merely a "wheeler dealer" who ran a legitimate business and had turned a blind eye to the origin of the cigarettes.

Jailing him, Recorder Henry Prosser said: "This was crime on a substantial scale and I have no doubt that you were the leader and linchpin and that your property was the centre from which this enterprise was conducted.

"I am also satisfied that it was you who brought in and involved your two co-accused Kevin Porter and Paul Dansby."

Leishman walked free after admitting one count of money laundering and was ordered to carry out 220 hours of unpaid community work.

Dansby, 33, of Limes Way, Gawber, was jailed for 16 months after officers found 15,880 cigarettes and 3,300 cash at his business premises on the Carlton Industrial Estate.

Leishman's father Kevin Porter, 59, of Ladymead, Monk Bretton, was jailed for 15 months after admitting one count of money laundering. Officers found 18,200 cigarettes and 1,200 cash at his home.

And at an earlier hearing Peter Haigh, 62, of Thorne End Road, Staincross, Barnsley, was given a six month suspended jail term.

Speaking after the case DS Adrian Ward, from South Yorkshire Police’s money laundering team, said he was pleased with the sentences.

“This has sent a strong message to the criminal community that this kind of offending is not going to be tolerated - if you are caught you are going to get quite a lengthy sentence.

“These dysfunctional role models in the Barnsley area were members of a well organised and well established criminal group that have been carrying out their activities for a number of years.”