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Greater Manchester News – Wigan

Carer rumbled by private investigators selling counterfeit tobacco in Morrison’s car park Darren Lee Riley brought in fake Amber Leaf products and advertised them on Facebook Marketplace

By:       Stephen Topping

Date:   18 August 2021

A full-time carer was rumbled selling counterfeit tobacco after handing over more than 100 pouches to private investigators outside a Wigan supermarket.

Darren Lee Riley, who also goes by the name Lee Riley, sold fake Amber Leaf tobacco pouches at less than one-third of their true value on Facebook Marketplace, Wigan and Leigh Magistrates Court heard on Wednesday (August 18).

The 46-year-old was snared by private investigators from TM-Eye Ltd, who arranged to buy the tobacco on three separate occasions earlier this year.

The court heard that on each occasion, Riley brought the dodgy tobacco to the back of the car park at Morrison’s, in Leigh, before handing it over to the undercover investigators.

On each of two occasions in March, Riley sold 10 pouches of fake Amber Leaf at £7.50 per pouch, well below their true market value of £25.80 each.

Riley advertised the counterfeit tobacco on Facebook Marketplace

Prosecuting, Benjamin Burge said the investigators then asked for 100 pouches for their third purchase, when Riley told them the tobacco would be delivered to his home from Walsall, West Midlands.

Officers watched a delivery van bring the package to Riley’s home on April 13, before he arranged to hand over the counterfeit tobacco at the usual location two days later.

The court heard that Riley, who by the third deal was looking ‘nervous’ in the Morrison’s car park, handed over 101 pouches at a cost of £700.

Riley would take the tobacco pouches to Morrison’s car park in Leigh

On July 28, TM-Eye investigators and police officers searched Riley’s home and found 84 more pouches of fake Amber Leaf tobacco – taking the total number handled by Riley to 205 pouches.

Mr Burge said: “There were a number of adverts posted on Facebook Marketplace that had the appearance of genuine Amber Leaf tobacco.

“Mr Riley admitted he had been purchasing it for £2.50 a pouch from a Chinese website. Some packs contained a label saying it had been imported from Hong Kong.”

The packs were examined against genuine Amber Leaf products and were revealed to be fake.

Riley, of Lilford Street, Leigh, pleaded guilty to three counts of selling counterfeit tobacco and one count of handling counterfeit tobacco.

Defending, Jonathan Conder said his client had been selling counterfeit tobacco for a ‘relatively short period of time’ to bring in extra funds.

He said: “The defendant has engaged in the sale of this tobacco for a relatively short period of time. I would suggest it is an unsophisticated operation.

“This is a man who gave his genuine name in communications with the investigators on Facebook. He had items up for sale on Facebook Marketplace, which is an easily accessible forum.

Darren Riley was increasingly nervous by the third transaction, the court heard “He didn’t know for sure that they were counterfeit but clearly the prices should have indicated there was something suspicious about the items.

“When police attended his address he showed them where the other pouches were being stored. They were in a bedroom upstairs in a wardrobe.”

A probation report said that Riley is a full-time carer for his wife and has received carer’s allowance since 2014.

It also said Riley struggles with alcohol – drinking 20 to 30 pints a week, often while his wife is asleep.

Mr Conder added: “The income for the family is very limited. He engaged in this opportunity to make a little bit of extra money on the side.

“He accepts that was wrong and he expresses genuine remorse.”

Riley was handed a 12-month community order and must attend a nine-month alcohol treatment programme.

He will also pay a £240 fine, a £95 victim surcharge and £700 towards the cost of TM-Eye’s fees.

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