A PENSIONER has been spared jail for his part in a tobacco smuggling ring which cost the taxpayer more than £1m in lost duty.

David Hodgson became the 13th person to be sentenced over the scam which saw hundreds of parcels of hand-rolled tobacco posted from Belgium and Holland to addresses in Darlington, North Yorkshire, County Durham, and Teesside to be collected and pedalled on the black market.

The 68-year-old, of Oaktree Court, Catterick, North Yorkshire, was remanded in custody by Judge Sean Morris last Friday after a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

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He admitted conspiracy to evade excise duty between July 2012 and August 2013.

Hodgson, who is understood to live in supported accommodation, benefitted from the con to such an extent that he spent in the region of a million pounds in betting shops despite being in receipt of benefits.

Vehicles registered to Hodgson were used to travel to the continent to buy the goods. The packages posted were disguised as plant pots, fabrics, decorating, gardening and catering supplies and amounted to more than six tonnes in illegal tobacco.

The pensioner was given a 12 month jail sentence at Teesside Crown Court, suspended for two years. He will also serve a six month curfew between 6pm and 6am.

Judge Morris said this would allow him to be imprisoned in his own home, rather than at the taxpayers’ expense.

Four men have been jailed over the plot, while two more defendants await sentence later this month.

David Hodgson’s sons Paul Hodgson, 46, of Forest Drive, Colburn, Catterick and 45-year-old John Hodgson, previously of Norman Road, Richmond, received jail sentences of four years, ten months each.

Joshua Hodgson, 24, also of Forest Drive, was jailed for three years and Paul Hooper, 53, of Appleton Close, Darlington, received a four year, seven month jail term.