A lorry driver who was caught four times with illegal loads of beer smuggled from France has been jailed for a £131,000 fraud.
Simon O’Hare, 29, of Alder Grove, Ingol, Preston, was stopped in London, Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators as he was delivering the goods.
Manchester Crown Court heard he would drive his empty HGV to France, returning with pallets of beer which, on paper, were destined for an Essex bonded warehouse, where non-duty paid alcohol is stored.
However, he would divert the deliveries to wholesalers around the country, evading UK excise duty.
On each trip, HMRC found evidence he had attempted to alter registration numbers and markings on the vehicles to try to evade detection.
O’Hare, previously of Starkey Street, Heywood, Greater Manchester, was caught on four separate occasions last year with diverted loads containing 26 pallets of mixed beer.
He was stopped by officers on February 29 at a licensed cash and carry store in Abbey Wood, London, on March 6 at a licensed wholesaler in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, on March 22 at a retail park in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, and on June 20 at a licensed cash and carry store in Charlton, London.
O’Hare admitted four counts of being knowingly concerned in carrying, removing, depositing, harbouring, keeping or concealing or in any manner dealing with goods chargeable with a duty which had not been paid, with intent to defraud Her Majesty of the duty under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.
He was sentenced to eight months on each count, to run concurrently.
John Pointing, assistant director of criminal investigation at HMRC, said: “O’Hare lied about where the beer came from and the associated false paperwork each time he was caught, but continued to smuggle, despite warnings he could be prosecuted.
“Selling smuggled alcohol at knock-down prices gives criminals an unfair profit and threatens the livelihoods of honest retailers.
“We urge the public to come forward and let us know if they have information about the sale, transport, or storage of suspect alcohol or tobacco on 0800 59 5000.
“You can also report suspicious trading, tax evasion or smuggling via our website to help us tackle organised crime.”