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Family who ran illegal tab house in Crook spared jail
A FATHER who roped his family into helping him sell counterfeit cigarettes from his home after his benefits were temporarily stopped has been spared jail.
Ian and Linda Smales, their daughter Kimberley and their other daughter’s boyfriend Kevin Cavigan ran an illegal 'tab' house in Crook, County Durham, for several months before being raided by Durham County Council, Durham Crown Court was told.
Mr Smales, 47, and his wife, 43, ran the operation from their home on Hawes Crescent while their daughter, 24, and Kevin Cavigan, 26, stored thousands of counterfeit cigarettes at their house on nearby Honister Square.
Trading Standard’s officers spent several months watching the family after receiving an anonymous tip off.
Richard Bennett, prosecuting for the council, said the family were placed under surveillance in 2011, but the operation changed when Ian Smales became suspicious of a van parked near his home and placed paper over the vehicle’s windscreen.
Undercover officers approached the Hawes Crescent house five times between July and September, 2011, each time buying 40 counterfeit cigarettes of varying brands for £6.60.
Ian Smales served the officer three times, Linda Smales once and an unidentified male sold the cigarettes on another occasion.
In October, 2011, officers raided both the houses, the court heard.
At the Hawes Crescent house they seized 5,140 cigarettes, many of which were counterfeit worth £848.10, and 200 grammes of tobacco with no duty paid.
A further 9,000 cigarettes worth £1,458 and £3,500 in cash was found at the Honister Square house.
The prosecutor said the cigarettes probably originated in China and Eastern Europe and the packets were not displaying the legally required health warnings and pictures.
The three Smales’ all pleaded guilty at the first opportunity to a number offences relating to the illegal trade in cigarettes while Cavigan incurred costs of £1,200 after initially denying the charges but then changing his plea before trial.
Jonathan Walker, representing Ian Smales, said his client bought the cigarettes from Sedgefield car boot sale and started the “cottage industry” after losing his benefits for 13 weeks.
Judge Esmond Faulks sentenced Ian Smales, the self-confessed leader, to eight weeks in prison suspended for a year while Linda Smales was ordered to complete 100 hours unpaid work and Kimberley Smales and Cavigan 150 hours each.
After the hearing Chris Cooper from the council said illegal tab houses are being actively targeted as they undermine efforts to stop smoking.
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