Skip to content
Family smuggling gang sentenced

Press release -

Family smuggling gang sentenced

A gang of North East smugglers, including four members of the same family, has been sentenced today after their £750,000 tobacco smuggling ring was smashed by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The gang of 10, led by Michael Linney from South Shields, was caught out when HMRC officers intercepted parcels containing illegal tobacco, which were being delivered to addresses across South Tyneside. An investigation discovered that the gang had been travelling in groups on organised tobacco buying trips. The gang then mailed the illegal tobacco back home using courier services.

Also involved were: Michael Linney’s wife, Victoria Linney, his daughter, Kirsten Jane Linney, Grant Smith, Justin Sheriff, Glenn Paul Chrisp, Leonard Clouston, Lee Ellison and Paul Anthony Lowery, all from South Shields, as well as Michael Linney’s son, Kris Michael Linney, from Jarrow.

Diane Donnelly, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC said:

“This gang worked together under the direction of Michael Linney. Their activities were planned in detail to avoid suspicion. But this case clearly shows that HMRC will uncover attempts to defraud UK taxpayers and there is a high price to pay once you’re caught.

“This is not just about trying to save smokers money on a packet of cigarettes. This is a gang of criminals who have made a profit by defrauding taxpayers.”

The gang travelled extensively between 2010 and 2012, visiting countries such as Belgium and Germany. They made considerable profit from smuggling cigarettes and tobacco, which they sold on in the North East. 

They travelled in small groups, often using complicated travel itineraries in an attempt to avoid getting caught. They often travelled out by plane and returned by ferry, or booked flights departing from different airports but travelling at the same time, all in an attempt to avoid being tracked by the authorities. They visited European tobacco supermarkets, buying hundreds of thousands of duty free cigarettes and tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco; often buying more than £30,000 worth at a time.

The gang imported the cigarettes and tobacco in different ways, often describing them as leather jackets or clothing, when posting the parcels back to their home address. They also brought back the cigarettes and tobacco in luggage, through ports and airports.

All 10 were arrested in early morning raids in October 2012 and were later charged with conspiracy to fraudulently evade excise duty.

After sifting through data, phone records, travel receipts and bank statements, HMRC investigators found that throughout the fraud the gang had booked around 470 plane tickets and spent more than £500,000 buying tobacco goods.

The gang pleaded guilty to the charges and were sentenced today by His Honour Recorder Lowe at Newcastle Crown Court today.

Notes for editors

      
  1. Defendants details:

Michael Keith Linney, DOB 07/04/67, of Mill Dam, South Shields, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to fraudulently evade excise duty and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Victoria Linney, DOB 24/09/71, of Mill Dam, South Shields, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to fraudulently evade excise duty and was sentenced to 200 hours of unpaid work.

Kris Michael Linney, DOB 08/09/85, of Albert Road, Jarrow, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to fraudulently evade excise duty and was sentenced to nine months in prison suspended for 12 months and 300 hours of unpaid work.

Kirsten Jane Linney, DOB 04/08/91, of High Meadow, South Shields, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to fraudulently evade excise duty and was sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for 12 months, a 12 month supervision order and 200 hours of unpaid work.

Glenn Paul Chrisp, DOB 04/01/73, of Pear Tree Mews, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to fraudulently evade excise duty and was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

Justin Sheriff, DOB 03/04/73, of Bisley Drive, South Shields, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to fraudulently evade excise duty and was sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for 12 months and 300 hours of unpaid work.

Grant Philip Smith, DOB 08/10/74, of Grosvenor Road, South Shields, Tyne and Wear, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to fraudulently evade excise duty and was sentenced to 21 months in prison.

Leonard Clouston, DOB 07/12/72, of Moreland Road, South Shields, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to fraudulently evade excise duty and was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

Lee Ellison, DOB 11/12/73, of Copely Avenue, South Shields, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to fraudulently evade excise duty and was sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for 12 months, a 12 month supervision order and a 12 month curfew between the hours of 19:00pm and 07:00am.

Paul Anthony Lowery, DOB 29/01/75, of Malbrough Street North, South Shields, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to fraudulently evade excise duty and was sentenced to nine months in prison suspended for 12 months, a 12 month supervision order and 200 hours of unpaid work.

2.   Follow HMRC's Press Office on Twitter @HMRCpressoffice

3.  HMRC’s Flickr channel www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk

Subjects

Tags

Regions


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.

Press contacts

HMRC Regional Senior Press Officer - East of England & South of England

Senior Press Officer 03000 589 546

Related content

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.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
100 Parliament St
SW1A 2BQ London