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Preston shopkeeper repeatedly sells fake fags

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A shopkeeper caught peddling illicit tobacco in Preston for a THIRD time has been given a suspended jail term.

Father-of-five Idris Patel, 41, of Lex Street, Preston, was caught out in two test purchases at Pound Plus on New Hall Lane, Preston, by Lancashire County Council’s Trading Standards, just weeks after receiving 100 hours unpaid work for similar offences.

Preston Magistrates’ Court heard a volunteer who asked for cheap cigarettes had been asked to wait while he left the store in a visit in February this year.

He returned minutes later with the illicit packs.

Patel was arrested on a warrant on Thursday after failing to turn up for a hearing at the court, following earlier guilty pleas in which he had claimed he was filing for bankruptcy.

Asked for an explanation by magistrates he simply said: “ I’m going through a very difficult time, I am sorry every time I come here.”

Prosecuting, Nick McNamara described how the shopkeeper had sold volunteers cigarettes at around half the price of legal cigarettes before a full inspection was carried out.

He said: “The sale of these packets denies consumers valuable information about the harmful effects of smoking.

“They also make smoking more affordable.”

In a previous case, packs of illicit tobacco and cigarettes were found stashed a “cubby hole” at his shop.

Patel, who has another conviction from January 2013, pleaded guilty to offences concerning tobacco trademarks and selling products that did not have the required health warnings.

He received 16 weeks suspended for 12 months, 50 hours unpaid work, £140 costs and an £80 surcharge.