FOURTEEN people from South East Northumberland have appeared in court in connection with an alleged tobacco and money laundering ring.
Men and women aged from 22 to 73, from the Newbiggin and Ashington areas, appeared before South East Northumberland magistrates charged with offences of money laundering and tax evasion on tobacco products.
The offences are said to have been committed in the Newbiggin community, and elsewhere in the county, over a seven-year period.
Christine Carr, 50, and Lee Carr, 22, both of the same address on Brockwood Close, Ashington, and Ryan Allan Carr, 25, of Wansbeck Road in the town, all appeared together at the Bedlington court on one charge of conspiring to commit money laundering in Newbiggin between April 1, 2004 and May 19, 2011.
Steve Robinson, 36, and Alison Louise Sharp, 35, both of Woodhorn Road, Newbiggin, and Nicola Rowley, 41, of Richard Ashley Close in the village, all appeared together on the same charge.
A further eight defendants were then brought before magistrates together.
Derek James Rowley, 40, of Spital Road, Newbiggin, faced the same charge of money laundering.
The remaining seven were all jointly charged with conspiring with each other in dealing with tobacco products, on which duty had not been paid, in Northumberland between April 2004 and May 2011.
They were Paul John Rees, 43, and Joanne Rees, 41, both of the same address at Epsom Drive, Ashington; Dean Ivor Rees, 42, Dennis Rees, 66, and Margaret Rees, 62, all of Northumberland Avenue, Newbiggin; and Alan Collins, 70, and Joyce Collins, 73, of Manor Drive in the village.
None of the defendants entered any pleas during the hearing, on Tuesday, and magistrates heard that all the matters must be heard at a crown court due to their serious nature. Magistrates sent all the cases to Newcastle Crown Court, where the 14 will appear for a preliminary hearing on February 7.
Alan Collins faces an additional charge of benefit fraud, but that offence was also sent to the Newcastle court to be dealt with alongside his other matter.
Unconditional bail was granted to all defendants.