A judge has jailed a Doncaster man for three years for his part in a “professionally organised” scheme moving hand-rolled tobacco on which duty had not been paid.
Customs officers believed the group of which Anthony Scothorne was a member organised the importation of at least 2,100 kilogrammes of tobacco which was liable for import tax of more than £370,000.
Scothorne, 65, of Thorntondale Road, Scawsby, known as “Sunbed Tony” because of his permanent tan was found guilty by a jury at Leeds Crown Court earlier this year of conspiracy to evade duty.
The trial heard on November 8, 2012 officers raided a unit at Ready Steady Store in Doncaster and found Ronald Edwards, the leader of the conspiracy, had just taken delivery of over 1,800 kilogrammes of tobacco.
The lorry carrying the tobacco had been led to the store that day by Edwards’s son-in-law Russell Scherdel who had met the driver nearby on Clay Lane.
The delivery note for the pallets described the contents of the cardboard box as “discount/ex display clothing” but the duty evaded on the tobacco inside on that load alone was £295,000.
Craig Hassall prosecuting said Edwards’s son Lee and another son-in-law Paul Higgins had also helped in the importation and when the address of Lee Edwards was searched in Bawtry Road, Doncaster an industrial packaging machine and several rolls of cellophane were found.
Remnants of tobacco were found on the machine showing it had previously been used and pouches and tax stamps were also recovered while at the bottom of a wardrobe templates were found for counterfeit tobacco pouches including Golden Virginia Drum and Tennessee Gold.
A packing plant was also found in the garage at Ronald Edwards address in Lords Close, Doncaster including wooden racks of the size to hold tobacco pouches.
Scothorne was a long standing friend of Ronald Edwards and had a previous conviction in 2010 for possessing articles for use in fraud relating to counterfeit tobacco pouches and wrapping machines and was able to provide information on the type of equipment needed to the group.
Mr Hassall said customs officers had observed meetings in September and October between various members of the group and a man from Essex who put them in touch with smugglers.
On October 23 that man had been stopped in a van on the A1 with 400 kilogrammes of tobacco on board on which the duty evaded was £65,644.
Richard Barradell representing Scothorne suggested his involvement was less than the others who had appeared in the case. “65 is a difficult age for anybody to go into custody for the first time. He is terrified of it but prepared.”
He said Scothorne’s wife had recently had a hysterectomy and his sister was in a care home and visited by him regularly. “He is desperately worried something will happen to her while he is incarcerated.
Jailing Scothorne yesterday, Judge Tom Bayliss QC said it was accepted the prime mover was Ronald Edwards who under threat was trying to repay a debt owed to travellers by his deceased brother.
“You didn’t play an organisational role but you did play a key role. Your previous conviction shows you had the knowledge to carry out the operation.”
The judge said he had read testimonials about Scothorne’s character which had described him as conscientious, reliable and ready to help others but there had to be a jail term. “This was highly organised criminal activity resulting in a potential loss to the revenue of hundreds of thousands of pounds.”
Ronald Edwards was previously jailed for two years and the others for two and a half years.