A shop owner from Wearside who used a £20,000 haul of illegal tobacco to pay his workers was caught out after a trading standards swoop.
Michael Farnsworth, who runs Farnsworth greengrocer store in St James Mall, Hebburn, was found in possession of 1,974 packets of prohibited tobacco - which didn’t carry health warnings - and 250 packets of counterfeit cigarettes during the raid.
The 62-year-old admitted possessing goods with a false trade mark for sale and posessing for supply goods prohibited by safety regulations at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.
The court heard that Farnsworth, of The Avenue, Washington, had been storing the cigarettes for a person he refused to name and was not aware they were illegal but had used the Turner Tobacco packets - valued at £10 each - in lieu of payment to people who carried out work for him.
Debbie Lloyd, prosecuting on behalf of South Tyneside Council, said: “On September 25, as a result of information received, South Tyneside Council’s trading standards team and Northumbria Police, searched the store.
Nigel Hedley, defending, said: “He has been naive to a large extent. In regards to the tobacco, he has lads who help to load the fruit and he has given them tobacco in return.
Farnsworth was fined £300 and must pay £200 costs and a £30 victim surcharge.