Facebook seller guilty of fake goods fraud
Expect to get caught. That is the message to anyone in Oxfordshire thinking of selling fake and smuggled tobacco using social media sites, such as Facebook.
The warning follows the prosecution of Samuel Rowe, at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Friday following a multi-agency operation by Oxfordshire County Council trading standards team, HMRC and Thames Valley Police last year. It resulted in the seizure of 12,000 grams of illegal hand-rolling tobacco, 3,500 fake cigarettes and a quantity of counterfeit Premier League football shirts and MAC cosmetics.
Councillor Judith Heathcoat, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “Oxfordshire’s trading standards team, working in partnership with Thames Valley Police and other agencies will continue to crack down on the sale of these illegal products.
“We also need residents to play a part. Be vigilant and report any suspicious activity using the illegal tobacco hotline.
”Recently published figures show that tobacco fraud costs the UK nearly £2 billion a year with one in three pouches of hand-rolling tobacco consumed coming from an illicit source. Treating smoking-related illnesses costs the NHS over £2 billion each year.”
The court heard that Rowe, 27, began to advertise tobacco products for sale on Facebook under the pseudonym Chris Jenkins, resulting in undercover stings by trading standards on 15 May and 3 June when brands including Golden Virginia, Amber Leaf, Cutters Choice and Lambert & Butler were purchased from him in the car park of an Oxfordshire pub.
This resulted in a warrant to enter Rowe’s home address being executed on 3 July and the haul of fake goods being seized. Rowe was arrested and interviewed by trading standards officers at Abingdon Police Station. His car was also seized by HMRC.
Rowe admitted to committing offences between March and July 2019 when he pleaded guilty to 16 offences including knowingly carrying on a fraudulent business under the Fraud Act 2006. He was sentenced to pay fines and costs totalling £2,440.
Jody Kerman, Oxfordshire County Council’s Head of Trading Standards, said: “We all know the risks associated with smoking and the best decision any smoker can make for their health and wealth is to stop. Peddling cheap, counterfeit tobacco is not only a serious crime, fake cigarettes also fail to extinguish themselves when left to burn, presenting a real danger to safety in the home.”
Those involved in the illegal tobacco trade in Oxfordshire may find the following happens to them if they are caught:
- home and car searched
- interviewed under caution
- mobile phones, computers, laptops and iPads seized and not returned if the devices have been used in the commission of the offence
- car seized if it has been used in the commission of the offence
- prosecuted through the criminal courts and, if found guilty, face a sentence of a fine, unpaid work or even prison
- any proceeds of crime, such as cash or property, seized and forfeited.
Anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco should contact 0300 999 6 999 or report it anonymously online at www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk
Pictured: The seized goods recovered from Rowe’s home.
Pictured: Head of Oxfordshire County Council Trading Standards, Jody Kerman, with the illicit haul.