Shrewsbury man sells counterfeit tobacco in Powys
A Shropshire father was caught delivering counterfeit tobacco to customers across Powys, containing traces of lead and higher than normal levels of the toxic metal cadmium.
Donald John Cunningham was stopped by police, who used automatic number plate recognition systems to track his vehicle, after county council officers discovered him advertising cheap tobacco on Facebook.
The 30-year-old, of Stapleton Road, Shrewsbury, admitted three charges of possessing counterfeit tobacco on June 18, 2018, including 80 pouches of leaf tobacco, when he appeared at Llandrindod Wells Magistrates Court on Wednesday.
He also admitted two charges of supplying tobacco which did not contain the combined health warning, on the same date.
Prosecuting for Powys County Council, Mr Rob Brown said officers became suspicious that Cunningham was selling counterfeit tobacco after intelligence led them to his Facebook page, where he was selling five pouches for £50 when each pouch would normally retail for £24 or £25.
During June 2018, intelligence was received that he would be delivering fake tobacco in Powys to customers. Police tracked his vehicle and it was stopped at Llyswen Village Hall. He volunteered information that the tobacco was in the boot and he said he had been delivering it to customers.
A wallet containing £560 cash and credit cards was found, and trading standards officers found the tobacco in a large carrier bag, two Samsung phones, a sat nav and a dash cam.
Samples of the tobacco were analysed all were found to be counterfeit. Two types were found to have a concentration of cadmium, a toxic metal similar to mercury and zinc, five times more than in the genuine products. All pouches contained traces of lead.
The value of the tobacco seized was £1,920.
Magistrates were told Cunningham has a previous conviction for supplying counterfeit tobacco from October 2017, but he was not dealt with until December 2018 at Telford Magistrates Court, after he had committed these offences.
Mitigating, Mrs Jane Thomas said since the December 2018 court case, there had been no further offending.
“He was aware that what he was doing was wrong but back in 2017 and early 2018, his disability payments had stopped and he was struggling with a drugs and alcohol addiction. He bought and sold these tobacco products because it was the only way he was able to make money.
“As soon as his benefits were reinstated and he realised how serious the offences were, all of that stopped.”
She said he had since started his own business tuning cars.
The court was told that Cunningham was mortified when he heard there was lead in the tobacco he was selling as he had lung issues himself.
Magistrates imposed a 12-month community order with 15 rehabilitation activity requirement sessions, and Cunningham was fined £100. He was also ordered to pay £2,822.50 costs and a £85 surcharge. The forfeiture and destruction of the tobacco was also ordered.