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Stephen Mulhern and Emma Willis 9am - 12pm
10 February 2014, 06:00
Leading members of organised crime groups who trafficked Class A drugs with an estimated street value of up to £1.3m between Northampton and the south coast have been jailed for a total of more than 100 years.
Gangs from Northants, Cambs and Hants set up links which would result in an estimated 28kg of cocaine being trafficked more than 160 miles to the Hampshire coast, over a two-year-period.
A Northamptonshire gang led by 36 year-old Joseph O’Neill and his second-in-command Sean Byrne sourced high purity cocaine from Cambs-based criminals including Paul Wesley.
O’Neill, Byrne and Wesley were convicted of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs following a nine-week trial at Leicester Crown Court in October and November.
O’Neill’s network of couriers then took the drug to Southampton and sold it to members of an organised crime group based in the Hampshire town. It is believed the round trip of around 220 miles was made on 158 occasions.
The arrests came as part of Operation Vanguard - led by the East Midlands Special Operations Unit.
Approximately 50 search warrants were executed and 40 people arrested during enforcement operations in 2012. Of the 40 arrested, 16 would go on to plead guilty to charges of conspiring to supply class A drugs.
Another six people initially denied the offence, but two of them changed their plea to guilty before the trial began and a third later admitted to being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs.
O’Neill, of Jacques Road, Burton Latimer, reappeared at Leicester Crown Court on Thursday (6 February) and was sent to prison for 20 years.
Byrne, aged 48, of Purser Road, Northampton, received a jail sentence of 15 years.
Wesley, 38, of Fowlmere Road, Foxton, in Cambridgeshire, was also found guilty of the conspiracy charge following the trial. He was sent to prison for 18 years.
Cyrus Kazak, 49, of Woodpecker Way, Waterbeach, was also instrumental in providing the high-purity cocaine to O’Neill’s group. Kazak pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and received a sentence of 12-and-a-half years, having also admitted possession of ecstasy (MDMA) with intent to supply and also one count of supplying ecstasy.
Five more men who had helped O’Neill to distribute the drugs were sentenced on Thursday, having already pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge.
Micah Walfall, 29, previously of West Cotton Close, Northampton, was sentenced to ten years, as was John Monteith, 27, of Stockholm Close, Corby
Michael Wilson, previously of Cricketers Green, Welford, near Corby, was given a seven-and-a-half year sentence.
Adrian Dowling, 48, of High Street, Pitsford, Northants, was sentenced to six years for the drugs conspiracy, plus one to year to run consecutively after pleading guilty to producing fraudulent documentation.
Christopher Jones, 26, of Park Road, Hanslope, Milton Keynes, had also admitted one count each of supplying ecstasy, supplying cocaine and supplying cannabis in addition to the cocaine supply conspiracy. He was sentenced to five years.
A number of other defendants who have pleaded guilty to their part in the conspiracy will be sentenced in the coming weeks.
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Chf Insp Mark Brayfield, of the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, said: "This is, so far, a very satisfying outcome to a very long and complex investigation. I’m very grateful not only to my team in EMSOU but also to our colleagues in other forces and the Crown Prosecution Service, Complex Case Unit who ensured that we not only undertook successful enforcement operations, but gathered, presented and prepared substantial evidential material that subsequently resulted in the arrest, charge and conviction of the suspects.
This case demonstrates that determined criminals will find markets for drugs wherever they can and will travel long distances to source and distribute drugs if they have to.
Our job is to protect the public by identifying this activity and the offenders and then take action to gather evidence, make arrests and bring a strong case to court. We have to bide our time on occasion, but days like today make it all worthwhile and some very significant criminals from three different organised crime groups, and parts of England are now serving lengthy prison sentences as a result."