Black Country bootlegging gang jailed for selling lethal fake vodka

First published in Local

A GANG of Black Country bootleggers who made lethal fake vodka and sold it throughout the country has been jailed.

HM Revenue and Customs raided a crude distillery and bottling plant in Birmingham city centre where Gavin Berrow, Alex Dean Rollason and Michael Woodcock were making their dangerous moonshine.

Yesterday at Birmingham Crown Court Gavin Berrow, aged 42, Amblecote Road Brierley Hill, West Midlands, was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

Alex Dean Rollason, aged 20, Halesowen Road, Old Hill, was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

Michael Woodlock, aged 52, of Greswold Street, West Bromwich, was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

The raid, which netted over 2,500 litres of “Arctic Ice” vodka, took place in July 2011 just days after five people died in an explosion at an illegal distillery in Lincolnshire.

Adrian Farley, assistant director of criminal investigation for HMRC, said: “This was a substantial bottling, production and distribution plant.

“The crime gang took no precautions to make the environment safe creating a high risk of an explosion and loss of life in their city centre unit.

“They were fully aware that the counterfeit vodka, which contained dangerous levels of methanol, was unfit to drink.”

He added: “They duped the public into buying what they believed were legitimate goods when in fact the counterfeit vodka could have killed them.”

Forensic analysis of the counterfeit vodka showed it contained dangerous levels of methanol which is used in antifreeze, solvent and cleaning fluids.

The effects of drinking methanol include nausea, abdominal pain, dizziness, blindness, kidney or liver problems, coma or death.

Joint investigations with local authorities across the West Midlands led to the discovery that Arctic Ice was already in circulation at a number of independent stores. Seizures were made in Birmingham, Hereford, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcester by Trading Standards, some of which are pursuing separate prosecutions.

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