A SHOP owner who sold counterfeit tobacco and cigarettes worth more than £4,000, despite being given multiple warnings, has avoided jail.

Mohammed Ahmad, 37, of Lonsdale Road, Southend received written warnings and had his Southend shop shut down but continued to sell the products.

He appeared at Basildon Crown Court yesterday, which heard he initially came to Southend Council’s attention in 2016.

Prosecuting Jonathan AustinJones said: “It started back in 2016 when he first came to the attention of the council, a number of searches were carried out at his premises and he was found to be selling illegal tobacco and cigarettes to the value of £24,000 but there was no conviction over this.

“A number of other searches were carried out in 2020 and 2021 after complaints about him selling the illegal items.

“The council ordered the shop to shut and he then re-registered it as a food shop as it was in the Covid pandemic. He had also been found to be selling the illegal items from a vehicle in a car park.

“The total value of the illegal items seized was £6,520, he refused to be interviewed but did admit the offences in the magistrates court.”

He told the court there was nobody else involved. Mr Austin-Jones added that there was a friend of the defendant at the location on the day of one of the raids.

He said the defendant was of previous good character with no previous convictions but did have warnings over trading standards matters.

Ahmad who was representing the himself in court, said: “It will not happen again and I will find honest ways to make money such as being a barber.

“I have a wife and three children and have recently had an operation for a hernia. I will be going back to work soon.”

Sentencing, Judge Andrew Hurst, said: “You showed a persistence in the offending and you were no heeding warnings. You had a lengthy period of selling illegal tobacco and cigarettes.”

He was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay within two years or he will face three months in prison.

He was charged with 12 counts of possessing business goods in packaging likely to be mistaken as real, 18 counts of producing tobacco product without warnings and 12 counts of distributor exposure of a dangerous product.