9 May 2019
A private landlord in Lincoln has been warned that he could be given a prison sentence of up to 15 months if he fails to repay £52,000 by August.
Leonardo Viscomi, of Malham Drive, Lincoln, continued to accept rent payments despite knowing that his property, which was being leased to people running European Foods Street, was being used to sell illegal alcohol and cigarettes.
The 61-year-old landlord confessed that he had known the property was being used for the illegal sale of alcohol and cigarettes, but insisted that he had no involvement in the running of the business and argued he had attempted to get the tenants to leave the property amicably.
He also claims the money, received over six years, was needed as he had bills to pay.
But his failure to evict those responsible meant criminal proceedings were taken against him and he was prosecuted.
In January, Viscomi pleaded guilty to knowing criminal activity was happening at his premises and was handed a suspended sentence as well as being given 150 hours unpaid work.
He has now been back in court and has been ordered to pay £52,755.57 within three months under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Failure to repay the sum could see Viscomi, who also has a business in Retford, sent to prison for as much as 15 months. He must also pay full costs of £8,517, but this is payable within 12 months.
Andy Wright, Principal Trading Standards Officer at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “For six years, Mr Viscomi received rent payments which originated from the sale of illegal cigarettes, it is only right that he pays this back.
“Mr Viscomi has three months to find almost £53,000, or if not, will go to prison for 15 months.
“As I’ve said before, it was never our intention to prosecute Mr Viscomi. He is a man of previous good character, and so we tried really hard, over a number of years, to give him detailed advice and information about what was happening in his building and the likely consequences if he continued to take rent payments.
“We tried prosecuting the sellers of the goods, but these were quickly replaced with another willing party, so we’ve tried a different tactic – which seems to be making a real difference at removing illegal and counterfeit cigarettes from our streets.”