A MAN found with 25,000 counterfeit cigarettes in a hidden compartment behind a fire place has been fined £1,000.

Alan Mason, of Hartington Street, Barrow, was caught in a sting at a pub in the town by Cumbria Trading Standards after a several complaints.

The 65-year-old was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,000, and a victim surcharge of £85, as well as being given a 16 week curfew.

Mason pleaded guilty at Barrow Magistrates Court to selling illegal tobacco from licensed premises.

Trading standards arranged to meet Mason and buy the goods off him after a tip-off from the public.

Following this, officers visited Mason’s home where a large quantity of counterfeit cigarettes and illegal hand rolling tobacco was seized.

Much of the seizure was found in a hidden compartment behind the fire place in the living room.

In total 25,000 counterfeit cigarettes and over 1,300 packs of illicit hand rolling tobacco was seized.

The court case has prompted Cumbria County Council’s Trading Standards service to pledge that they will continue to take action against those selling such items.

Councillor Celia Tibble, cabinet member for Trading Standards, said: “These are serious criminal offences.

“Illegal sales of tobacco in Cumbria have a huge impact on people’s health.

“When these counterfeit products are sold, considerably below the price of the legal product, they undermine the efforts to reduce the prevalence of smoking.

“They also encourage people who want to quit to maintain their habit.”

“We will not tolerate the illegal sales of tobacco and will continue to take firm action to stop this type of activity by using our enforcement powers against those we catch.

“Our officers routinely act on intelligence we receive, as they did in this case, so I would encourage consumers to continue to report those involved in selling illicit tobacco because their valuable information can significantly aid our investigations.”

Colin Cox, Director of Public Health at Cumbria County Council, said:

“Young people are particularly at risk from the illegal trade in selling counterfeit tobacco products.

“I would encourage anyone with information about illegal tobacco sellers to report them to Trading Standards on 03454 04 05 06.”