A MAN has admitted selling thousands of pounds worth of counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco at an east Durham social club.

Jan Sergeant, 49, was put under surveillance after trading standards officers were tipped off he was selling fake goods.

Durham County Council launched a five month investigation and he was arrested on February 15 after he was seen hawking tobacco at Horden Victory Club on Friday lunchtimes.

Gill Proud, prosecuting on behalf of the council, said: “The counterfeit brands of cigarette are not made to the required standard and may contain excessively high levels of toxic chemicals, which may cause serious health effects on those who smoke them.”

Trading standards officers found 26,600 cigarettes and 34 cases of wine as well as five bottles in a garage at Logan Terrace in South Hetton, eight boxes containing 651 packets of rolling tobacco and 1,600 cigarettes at a house in Pesspool Avenue, Haswell, and 1,600 cigarettes as well as 569 packets of rolling tobacco along with 15 cases of wine in his Ford Focus.

The tobacco products were worth about £6,750 and the wine was worth about £600.

They also found 400 cigarettes and 17 packets of rolling tobacco at his house in Kingston Crescent, Haswell, which he said were for his own personal use, along with £1,933 in cash.

Mrs Proud said the tobacco product did not carry the required warnings and breached trademark regulations.

She said: “The sale of cheap counterfeit cigarettes impacts not only on the trademark holders but the local businesses but on the health of the people who buy them.”

Sergeant pleaded guilty to eight counts of failing to comply with regulations when supplying a tobacco product, one count of possessing goods with a false trademark and one count of failing to notify of a change in circumstance affected benefits entitlement.

Peterlee Magistrates Court heard Sergeant, who is unemployed, received £1,420 in overpayment of Job Seekers Allowance.

He said he made about £80 a week from the enterprise, but had orders worth about £500 when he was arrested.

Mitigating, Neil Bennett said he had acted out of desperation in trying to pay off thousands of pounds worth of debts.

He said: “It was an opportunity, which, in difficult circumstances, he took.”

The case has been adjourned for the preparation of pre-sentence reports until November 25 and Sergeant has been granted conditional bail.