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3 December 2018, 16:43 | Updated: 3 December 2018, 17:42
Members of an Organised Crime Group have been convicted of conspiracy to blackmail and supply class A drugs following investigations carried out by Avon and Somerset Police and the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit
Ten men were convicted of offences following two trials held at Bristol Crown Court, which can be reported now after legal restrictions were lifted.
Sentencing for the first trial took place in October, with nine men receiving more than 70 years for their roles in conspiracies to supply £70,000 worth of cocaine and nearly £500,000 worth of ecstasy to Bristol.
Two of the men, 52-year-old Andrew Baker, formerly of Stoke Gifford, Bristol, and 48-year-old Adam Hoddinott, formerly of The Circle, Bath, have been convicted at a separate blackmail trial, which related to conspiracies in which money was demanded from local businessmen with menaces, as part of an illegal debt-collecting operation.
Seven other men were also convicted of the drugs conspiracies, including 47-year-old London man John Gordon, long-time associate of Baker, who supplied the cocaine to Hoddinott after Andrew Baker agreed to act as guarantor.
Matthew Sellars worked closely with Hoddinott, while Carl Newman’s Warmley home was used to both store the cocaine, brought from London by Justin Green and Danny Bond, as well as manufacture wholesale amounts of ecstasy pills.
Liam Waugh and David Woolley acted as onward distributors. A further man – 50-year-old Andrew Wylde – was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to blackmail for his role in the criminal operation.
DI Paul Catton, who led the SW ROCU’s investigation into the drugs conspiracies, said: “Securing these convictions against a group of organised criminals who were very alive to the prospect that they were under investigation was a challenge, but ultimately the evidence we gathered against both the ‘hands on’ members and those who opted to keep their distance, was compelling.
“As such, four of the group pleaded guilty – including the primary organiser of both conspiracies, Adam Hoddinott. His ‘guarantor’ Baker and right-hand man Sellars, as well as David Woolley, all found recordings, phone and surveillance evidence gathered by my team stacked up against them in court.”
SW ROCU officers watched as the cocaine was brought from London to Bristol by Green and Bond on February 1.
The pair met with Waugh at a car park near Newman’s Newton Road home and the exchange was made. Waugh then took the cocaine back to Newton Road.
All four men were arrested that day and a search of Newman’s home uncovered what the court described as a “drugs factory”, with the 1kg block of cocaine, thousands of ecstasy tablets, powders and mixers, an industrial pill press and logo punch sets seized.
On February 22, Hoddinott and Sellars were arrested in Warmley and Woolley was arrested in Plymouth.
A fortnight later (March 8), Baker was arrested in Downend and Gordon in London.
The Avon and Somerset Police investigation into blackmail conspiracies focused on offences committed in 2017 in which local business owners in Bristol and South Gloucestershire were threatened with violence if they did not pay significant sums of money.
DI Adam Bunting, lead officer for Avon and Somerset Police, said: “This crime group used bully-boy tactics to obtain money as part of an illegal debt-collection service. “They threatened and intimidated in order to make their victims fear for their own safety and the safety of their families.
“One victim was approached while on a golf course by one of the crime group members who was tasked with taking him to a “meeting” with two other members in a nearby car-park. One of the offenders told him: ‘I know where you live and I will hurt you and whoever I need to hurt to settle the debt’.
“A second victim was told his house and family would be ‘burned down’ if he didn’t pay a substantial sum of money.
“We used a number of policing tactics to prove links between different members of the crime group and establish who was talking to who and when. “It was a complex inquiry and we worked closely and effectively with our colleagues in the SW ROCU to expose the criminal activity taking place and bring those engaging in it to justice.
“We know victims of blackmail offences are reticent to speak to the police but I would urge victims not to suffer in silence. I hope these convictions encourage more victims to come forward and have confidence in us to carry out a sensitive and thorough investigation.”