AN illegal immigrant from Albania claimed to be an Italian national when his car was pulled into a service area on the A1(M) in County Durham and searched by police.

Asked to give his personal details, Redis Hoxha purported he was Marco Rossolini, born on December 13, 1990, producing an Italian citizen’s identity card, credit card and a driver’s licence in that name.

Durham Crown Court, sitting at Newcastle, was told in a search of his Vauxhall Insignia, in which he was the sole occupant, two cannabis joints were found in a cigarette packet in the driver’s door pocket.

Police recovered a carrier bag, containing £6,000, from an arm rest cubicle, while Hoxha was also carrying £445.

Robin Turton, prosecuting, said he was cautioned and arrested, initially for a drugs offence, but made no reply.

But later, having been taken from the Durham Services area, at Bowburn, to be booked into the custody suite at the city police station, Hoxha gave officers his correct name and said he was born in Albania, on July 7, 1998, but living in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

Mr Turton said the Crown understands from the Home Office that the defendant entered the UK illegally.

In his formal police interview he made no comment to all questions but has since signed a disclaimer in relation to the two sums of money recovered.

Mr Turton said the defendant has no recorded previous convictions, but a Criminal Records’ Office inquiry remains outstanding.

The court was told Hoxha was spotted by police at Whitemare Pool on the A194, near Gateshead, where the car was pulled over and taken to the Durham Services area, on the A1(M), at 2.30pm on March 19.

He admitted possessing cannabis and obstructing police when he appeared at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court, on March 21, but gave no plea to a further charge of possessing a false identity document.

The magistrates sent the case to the crown court, where he also admitted that count.

Stephen Hamill, mitigating, said Hoxha did not fully understand the gravity of the offence as he was not assisted by an Albanian interpreter at the magistrates’ court, but, appearing at the crown court via video link from Durham Prison, he was aided by an interpreter.

Mr Hamill said as an illegal immigrant he was unable to open a bank account, so had to carry his earnings around with him, although he conceded he should not be working and so made no claim to retain the money seized.

Judge James Adkin said the harm caused by the fake documents was the ability to try to mislead the authorities over his identity, enabling other criminal offences to be committed.

Jailing him for ten months, Judge Adkin told Hoxha that at the half-way point of the sentence he will either be released or deported.

He also ordered confiscation of the seized money.