A Leeds fraudster, who led a six-man tobacco smuggling gang in a conspiracy to put millions of illegal cigarettes on the streets, has been jailed for seven years.
Discount furniture store owner, Geoffrey David Moon, of Thwaite Lane, Leeds, presided over a criminal gang which brought tobacco products worth more than £2m in unpaid duty into the UK.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) seized more than eight million cigarettes and 200kg of hand-rolling tobacco from an industrial unit used by Moon and his gang in 2015. All the goods were counterfeit.
The gang was also caught with more than £1m cash made from their crimes. Nearly half the money was found hidden in a lorry load of small metal ovens.
Moon used money from the fraud to fund a house by the canal, with a 5-a-side football pitch and a canal boat.
On Friday 11 May Moon was handed a seven-year jail sentence for his crimes. His associates, who helped move and distribute the illegal goods and cash, were also convicted for their roles in the conspiracy. They were:
Sean Hirst, 52, of Kelsall Terrace, Leeds, was handed a five and-a-half year prison sentence.
Paul Heselgrave, 46, of Temple Drive, Leeds, was handed a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 150 hours unpaid work.
Anthony Queenan, 57, of Briarsdale Heights, Leeds, was handed a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 150 hours unpaid work.
Gerard McKeown, 60, of Clonmore Rd, Dungannon, Northern Ireland, was handed an eight-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months.
Another defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was handed a six-year prison sentence. Two other men are currently being pursued in connection to the crimes.
A court ruled £1,107,180 of the seized cash could be paid into the public purse after the defendants could not show a legitimate source for it. Another £4,000 is currently under dispute. Proceedings are also under way to recover the unpaid duty.
Eden Noblett, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Moon was at the forefront of a shocking criminal operation which aimed to put masses of illegal tobacco products on the streets and cost UK taxpayers’ millions of pounds. The gang are now paying the price for their crimes.
“Trade in illegal tobacco harms legitimate businesses and starves the UK of money which should be used to fund our vital public services. Moon and his gang stole enough money to pay the salaries of 142 trainee firefighters for a year.
“Anyone with information about tax fraud should report it to HMRC online or contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788887.”