A gang of Yorkshire smugglers, who described their tobacco as “wet, mouldy and smells like manure, but sells because it’s cheap”, is behind bars after HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) smashed their £26 million criminal operation.
The plot, which flooded the north of England with more than 150 million cigarettes and two tonnes of low quality tobacco, was masterminded by Doncaster men Daniel Harty and Billy-Jo Wall. Along with brothers, William and Samual Tomlinson, Ben Kirk, Peter Lawrence and Jonathan Ellis all from Retford and John Sabin from Doncaster after they smuggled cigarettes and tobacco into the UK.
Under the direction of Harty and Wall the gang created a distribution network that transported millions of cigarettes throughout the north of England to warehouses, storage yards and farms. The shipments were then broken down into smaller loads and delivered to towns and cities across the UK to sell on the black market.
Sandra Smith, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation, HMRC said:
“This gang operated in a very professional way, importing and delivering smuggled cigarettes and tobacco with precision planning. They kept hand-written records and accounts and had developed an extensive customer base.
“Although they went to great lengths to conceal their business, with a determination to avoid being caught, we have brought them to justice, which will serve as a stark warning to others involved in the illegal tobacco trade.”
The men were arrested in early 2011 as part of a HMRC investigation codenamed Operation Hornbeam. HMRC officers uncovered the gang’s “safe house” discovering large amounts of cash and the gang’s all important customer order books in an under-floor safe, hidden beneath a spring loaded tile on the kitchen floor. Officer’s also found paperwork, receipts and phone records along with forensic evidence linking all the gang members to the illegal operation.
During the raid on one property officers found around a £250,000 in bank notes underneath a bed.
One of the gang’s customers, David Donaghey from Newcastle upon Tyne was sentenced to 40 months in prison in January 2013 after it was discovered he had received around 1.3 million illegal cigarettes, which he sold on the black market.
Notes for Editors
1. Personal details
Daniel Thomas Harty, 28/09/1983, from Pony Paddocks, Toll Bar, Doncaster.
Harty was the ringleader who sourced the tobacco products and brokered deals in order to smuggle the cigarettes and tobacco into the UK. He kept meticulous records, setting out customers, the brands they sold and how much money they made from the crime. Harty pleaded guilty to conspiracy to evade excise duty and was sentenced to four years and six months in prison in November 2012 at Derby Crown Court.
Billy Joe Wall (aka Bradley), 02/09/1984, from Herrick Gardens, Doncaster.
Wall is a close associate of Harty and managed the distribution of the cigarettes and recruitment of others to act as delivery drivers. Wall was also a conduit between the gang and various customers who are named in the records kept by Harty. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to evade excise duty and charges of money laundering. He was sentenced to four years and four months in prison and an additional 32 months to run concurrent for money laundering charges in November 2012 at Derby Crown Court.
William Bowie Tomlinson, 11/01/1984, from Lifton Avenue, Retford.
Tomlinson’s role was to source and manage storage facilities where the tobacco products could be held securely awaiting distribution. This role would have involved him in the financial side of the operation in order to pay for storage facilities. It is also believed he recruited others from the Retford area to act as drivers or labourers. Tomlinson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to evade excise duty and was sentenced to three years eight months in jail in November 2012 at Derby Crown Court.
Samual Jeffrey Tomlinson, 01/06/1987, from Grove Coach Road, Retford.
Samuel, the younger brother of William, was involved in the distribution of tobacco products working either as a driver himself or loading the vans. Tomlinson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to evade excise duty and was sentenced to ten months in jail in June 2013 at Derby Crown Court.
Ben Phillip Kirk, 31/08/1985, from Windsor Road, Retford
Kirk was recruited to act as a driver for the gang, loading the vans and delivering cigarettes and tobacco. Kirk pleaded guilty to conspiracy to evade excise duty and was sentenced to five months in jail in June 2013.
Jonathan Ellis, 31/05/1989, from Century Road, Retford.
Ellis was recruited to act as a driver and was also trusted to store large amounts of cash on behalf of the gang. In May 2011 £244,950 was seized from his father’s house where Ellis had stored it for safe keeping. Ellis pleaded guilty to conspiracy to evade excise duty and was sentenced to 20 months in jail in June 2013.
Peter Lawrence, 08/07/1990, from Claters Close, Retford.
Lawrence is believed to have been recruited to act as a driver and was also trusted to store large amounts of cash on behalf of the gang. Lawrence pleaded guilty to conspiracy to evade excise duty and was sentenced to six months in jail in June 2013.
John Sabin, 29/02/1956, from York Road, Scawthorpe, Doncaster.
Sabin was responsible for couriering money on behalf of the gang. He was found guilty in November 2012 and was sentenced in his absence to two years nine months as he absconded before sentence. His whereabouts are currently unknown.
David Donaghey, 23/10/1984, from Wilton Avenue, Newcastle.
Donaghey, who was known to the gang as ‘Donut’, was a customer noted within the order books found during the investigation. The books noted that Donut had received 1,308,000 smuggled cigarettes from the gang at a cost of £122,490. He was sentenced to 40 months imprisonment in January 2013.
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3. HMRC’s Flickr channel www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk
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.