A former Stevenage store owner who previously pleaded guilty to the supply of counterfeit tobacco has been sentenced.

Aron Nawroz, 38, of Whitehouse Lane, Stevenage, was given a 16-month suspended sentence and 200 hours of unpaid work when he appeared at St Albans Crown Court last Friday.

This followed a hearing on February 19 this year at St Albans Magistrates, during which he pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading under Section 9(1) of the Fraud Act 2006 – via his business Mini Sam Express, at 16 The Forum in Stevenage.

Mr Nawroz took over the business in February 2018 and Trading Standards prosecuted him for his involvement in the supply of illicit tobacco from June 27, 2018 to July 12, 2019.

Trading Standards carried out investigations and seized 4,475 tobacco products from his store which they found concealed in various locations. Virtually all the tobacco examined was counterfeit.

At the sentencing, Judge Richard Foster said: “The tragedy of this case is your loss of good character. It is clear you had a difficult background, sought and obtained asylum, saved money and moved to this country and opened a business.

“All those positive things were shattered by your dishonesty, by what you did in this case. The particular aggravating factors are that you carried on despite being under investigation and the length of time over which it all went.”

Judge Foster added: “But let me say now that I am persuaded, I can suspend that sentence, bearing in mind your early guilty plea, the remorse that you have shown, and the previous good character to which I have already referred.

“Regard yourself fortunate that you are leaving court by the front door and not in a prison van.”

In mitigation, Mr Nawroz accepted that he made a mistake, acted criminally and was dishonest. His aim was not to make personal riches but to keep the business going. He indicated that he is currently unemployed.

Terry Hone, cabinet member for community safety and waste management said: “With no way of knowing exactly what goes into the content of counterfeit tobacco; no evident quality control or traceability checks and the consequent systematic undermining of legitimate business, we are determined to robustly tackle those supplying it and seek to recover the proceeds of crime through the courts.”