A debt-ridden dad who was caught red-handed selling counterfeit cigarettes at a social club has been given a community order.
Jan Michael Sergeant had been under surveillance by police and trading standards officers for five months when he was caught with the haul of fake tobacco at Horden Victory Club.
Prosecuting, Catherine Burgess told magistrates that the surveillance operation found he had delivered goods to addresses across East Durham.
Peterlee Magistrates’ Court heard that a search of his sister’s home uncovered 26,600 cigarettes and there were also 1,600 cigarettes and 69 50g packs of Golden Virginia and Turners rolling tobacco found in Sergeant’s Ford Focus when it was stopped outside the club on October 15 last year.
A further search revealed eight boxes, containing 651 50g packs of tobacco, 1,600 Capital cigarettes and a sleeve each of Regal King Size cigarettes at his home, though he claimed these were for his own use.
He told investigating officers he would have made £6,479 from the tobacco products and £598 for more than 30 cases of wine which were also seized.
Mrs Burgess said: “Counterfeit brands of cigarettes aren’t at normal standards and can have a high percentage of toxic chemicals that can harm people that use them.”
She added that Sergeant refused to reveal who supplied the goods, but he often visited The Gambia, which is know to supply counterfeit items.
Sergeant, 49, of Kingston Crescent, Haswell, pleaded guilty to 10 offences, including eight charges relating to failing to comply with consumer protection regulations.
He also pleaded guilty to possessing goods with a false trademark for sale and failing to notify the Department of Work and Pensions that he was receiving an income by selling the goods.
The court heard Sergeant received an overpayment in benefits of £1,420.
Neil Bennett, mitigating, said the offences were borne out of his desperate attempts to deal with a debt situation that he had been left with and that was not of his doing.
He said: “He tried to pay off debts by selling these items.
“It is important to note that the figures are not profit.
“There was a low degree of profit made by the defendant.”
Sergeant was given a 12-month community order with 220 hours of unpaid work.
He was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £60 and £500 costs.