Dodgy vapes cost Preston shop £23,000 after series of stings

A Preston man has been ordered to pay almost £23,000 after being caught selling illegal vapes.

Lancashire County Council's Trading Standards team took action on Friday, 14 June against Arif Patel, 43, of Sunnyside Road in Bolton, and Euro News Limited, the company behind EN Newsagents on Orchard Street in Preston.

Charges were brought against Patel and the company connected with the supply of disposable e-cigarettes containing more than the maximum amount of 2ml of nicotine-containing liquid prescribed by law.

Patel, who is the company's sole director, was also ordered at Preston Crown Court, to carry out 80 days of unpaid work in the community.

The court heard how, in February 2023, officers seized 1,290 oversized vapes at the store where Arif Patel described himself as the manager, although he had recently taken over as sole director of the company.

The following September, Patel sold an over-sized Blueberry Pro Max vape to an officer before a full inspection led to the seizure of another 951 similar vapes from a locked cabinet in a storeroom at the back of the shop.

Sentencing Patel, Recorder Siddiqi reminded him that he had carried on offending even after the first seizure and that the offences had been motivated by financial gain. She imposed a 12-month community order with 80 days' unpaid work requirement and 10 days' Rehabilitation Activity Requirement under supervision of probation officers. Patel was also ordered to pay court costs of £1,912. An order authorising the forfeiture and destruction of all 2241 seized vapes was also made.

In addition to the criminal offences, Recorder Siddiqi made an order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 requiring payment of an amount equivalent to the value of the 2241 seized vapes, £22,751.59. Patel was warned that, unless he pays the order off within three months, he will go to prison for 18 months.     

During the hearing, the court learned that, while proceedings were ongoing, in April this year, Patel had applied for Euro News Ltd to be wound up while a new company was created to take over the shop with himself as director. The old company, which has not yet been struck off, was given three months to pay fines of £1,500.

The prosecution comes hot on the heels of Patel's conviction in April for selling a vape to 15-year-old test purchaser in school uniform at the shop.  

Lancashire County Council's Trading Standards' principal officer Nick McNamara said: "This is the second time in as many months that we've been in court with this shop.

"It highlights our determination to crack down on vape sellers who flout the law."

Anyone who has concerns about the sale of any age-restricted products can report these to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service helpline on 0808 223 1133.    

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