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Flight attendant jailed for smuggling cigs

Press release   •   Oct 01, 2014 14:14 BST

The ringleader of a gang that used an airline’s staff discounted travel to smuggle cigarettes through UK airports has been jailed for 21 months today.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) found that flight attendant Dennis Connolly, 43, had organised over 130 smuggling trips, for himself and five others, using airline staff discounts. The gang hid cigarettes and tobacco worth £180,000 in evaded duty and taxes in their luggage.

The five men and one woman from Warrington, Liverpool, St Helens and Southport were sentenced at Manchester Crown Court today, Wednesday 1 October, after pleading guilty at an earlier court hearing.

Sandra Smith, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:

“Airline employees hold a position of trust and abusing such privileges in order to smuggle is a serious matter. Connolly organised subsidised travel purely for smuggling purposes. There are no excuses for smuggling, whatever your status.

“Tobacco fraud costs honest taxpayers more than £2 billion a year, undercutting honest businesses, and drawing people into wider criminality. Anyone with information about illicit tobacco sales or smuggling should contact the Customs’ Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”

The gang were caught out when three of them were stopped by Border Force officers at Liverpool John Lennon Airport on two separate dates. Terence Steele, 57, was stopped in November 2013 as he attempted to pass through the Customs Green Channel with 20 kilos of hand rolling tobacco (HRT) in his luggage, after a one-day trip to Faro, Portugal.

Dale O’Brien, 36, and Paul Rigby, 44, both unemployed, were stopped together at the same airport in April 2013, with 29 kilos of HRT in their luggage, after an identical trip. An investigation by HMRC linked the smuggling activities of the gang.

Connolly, Steele and Adele Jenkinson, 41, also an airline employee, made large purchases of duty-free tobacco in Spain and Portugal for the gang to smuggle. Meanwhile, Barry Gwynn, 39, booked 12 smuggling trips for himself and others using Jenkinson’s airline staff discount.

Notes for editors

1.  Dennis Jamie Connolly, DOB 08/06/71, of Hawkshead Street, Southport (previously of Warrington), an airline cabin crew employee, was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court to 21 months prison. He pleaded guilty in July 2014 to conspiring with others to deal in smuggled goods and evade UK duty under the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) 1979 at the same court. Connolly now faces a confiscation hearing under Proceeds of Crime legislation. Connolly booked 131 smuggling trips for himself and others using discounted employee travel privileges.

2.  Barry Roy Gwynn, DOB 10/01/75, of East Avenue, Stockton Heath, Warrington, an office worker, was sentenced to eight months jail suspended for two years and ordered to undertaken 120 hours unpaid work. He had booked 12 smuggling trips for himself and others. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring with Dennis Connolly to deal in smuggled goods and evade UK duty under CEMA in August 2014 at the same court.

3.  Terence Steele, DOB 15/06/57, of Abbotsbury Way, Croxteth, Liverpool, was sentenced to 12 months jail suspended for two years and ordered to undertake 120 hours community work. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring with Dennis Connolly to deal in smuggled goods and evade UK duty under CEMA in July 2014 at the same court.

4.  Dale Martin O’Brien, DOB 05/01/78, of Gaskell Street, St Helens, Merseyside, unemployed, was sentenced to 12 months jail suspended for two years, ordered to undertake 120 hours of unpaid work and to undertake Think Skills Programme. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring with Dennis Connolly to deal in smuggled goods and evade UK duty under CEMA in July 2014 at the same court.

5.  Paul Thomas Rigby, DOB 06/06/70, of Lovely Lane, Warrington, unemployed, was sentenced to eight months jail suspended for two years and a three-month curfew. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring with Dennis Connolly to deal in smuggled goods and evade UK duty under CEMA in July 2014 at the same court.

6.  Adele Jenkinson, DOB 27/02/73, of East Avenue, Stockton Heath, Warrington, an airline flight attendant and partner of Gwynn, was sentenced to 14 months jail suspended for two years and ordered to undertake 200 hours community work. She pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring with Dennis Connolly to deal in smuggled goods and evade UK duty under CEMA in August 2014 at the same court.

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Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.

HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.