Leeds tobacco fraud ringleader gets seven years for £2 million conspiracy

SEIZED: Fraud cash taken by officials investigating the operation.
SEIZED: Fraud cash taken by officials investigating the operation.

A Leeds fraudster who led a tobacco smuggling gang in a conspiracy to put millions of illegal cigarettes on the streets – using the for funds a canal-side house with a five-a-side football pitch – 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 £2 million in unpaid duty into the UK.

Geoffrey Moon.

Geoffrey Moon.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) seized millions of 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 HMRC said.

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The gang was also caught with more than £1m cash made from their crimes.

Nearly half the money was found hidden within a lorry load of small metal ovens.

Moon, 53, used money from the fraud to fund a house by a canal, fully equipped with a five-a-side football pitch and a canal boat, the HMRC said.

The defendant used his business Supa Sofa Ltd on Clarence Road, Leeds, as a front for the fraud.

He was yesterday handed a seven-year jail sentence and 
five associates, who helped move and distribute the illegal goods and cash, were also sentenced for their roles in the conspiracy.

One defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was handed a six-year prison sentence.

HMRC investigators saw the gang members with a lorry 
at an industrial estate in Leeds.

Border Force officers in Dover searched the lorry and found two bags containing the cash hidden inside an oven along with a small quantity of em@il red branded counterfeit cigarettes. All the ovens in the vehicle had purpose-built hidden compartments.

During the operation, officials also searched a Wheels Taxis unit in Leeds, and they discovered more than seven million Excellence and Palace cigarettes, and also found Golden Virginia and Amber Leaf branded tobacco, the Crown Prosecution Service said. The counterfeit goods, worth more than £2m in unpaid duty were seized by HMRC, it said.

Moon was found guilty of cheating the public revenue at Leeds Crown Court on April 3, 2018, and was sentenced at the same court yesterday by His Honour Judge Kearl QC.

Conspirators convicted

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 Road, Dungannon, Northern Ireland, was handed an eight-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months.