Suspended prison sentence for Didcot man guilty of fake cigarette sales

The net is closing in on criminals who sell illegal tobacco using social media sites, such as Facebook, Oxfordshire County Council’s trading standards team has warned.

The message follows the prosecution of a Didcot man at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday 8 December 2020 following a raid last year at his home address by the council’s trading standards team and Thames Valley Police and the seizure of over 15,000 counterfeit cigarettes.

Tobacco fraud is reported to cost the UK around £2 billion a year while treating smoking-related illnesses costs the NHS a similar amount annually.

The court heard that on 6 March last year, an undercover trading standards officer bought 10 packets of Richmond cigarettes and 10 packets of Marlboro cigarettes for £85 after responding to an advert posted by Grzegorz Roziel on Facebook. The Richmond cigarettes were subsequently confirmed as counterfeit whilst the Marlboro cigarettes had been smuggled from Poland.

This resulted in a warrant to enter Roziel’s home address being executed on 20 April and the haul of over 15,000 fake cigarettes being seized.

Roziel, 35, who at the time of his offending worked full-time as a housekeeping supervisor, admitted raking in £13,790 in sales between December 2018 and April 2019.

He pleaded guilty to nine offences including knowingly being a party to the fraudulent business of selling counterfeit cigarettes under the Fraud Act 2006.

In sentencing, District Judge Rana, said: “I take the view that only a custodial sentence can be justified. They were planned and organised (offences) and for the sole purpose of achieving financial gain. I cannot ignore the significant quantity of counterfeit cigarettes in this case which inevitably put the public at risk”.

She sentenced Roziel to six months imprisonment, suspended for 20 months, 250 hours of unpaid work and to pay prosecution costs of £4,568.50 within three months. All of the cigarettes were ordered to be forfeited and destroyed.

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. People can help us to stamp out illegal tobacco and create a healthier and safer Oxfordshire by being vigilant and reporting any suspicious activity using the illegal tobacco hotline.” See below for details.

Jody Kerman, Oxfordshire County Council’s Head of Trading Standards, added: “While there is no safe level of smoking, there is also no way of knowing what is contained in unregulated and counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco products, which could put your health at increased risk. In any case, the best decision any smoker can make is to commit to quit now.”

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