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19 January 2013, 00:00 | Updated: 19 January 2013, 07:05
Eight men have been sentenced to over 22 years in prison for their roles in an organised crime group that distributed cannabis throughout Norfolk and Suffolk.
They were sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court on Friday.
The use of specialist investigative officers from the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) started planning their operation in June 2011 after receiving intelligence that the group were believed to be responsible for the distribution of high quality herbal and resinous cannabis through the two counties.
They identified a greater criminal network which expanded to Essex, London, the north west and north east regions of England. This group were responsible for importing tonnes of cannabis into the country from Europe.
During the following months, surveillance upon the organised crime group which identified the hierarchy, drug warehouses along with numerous drugs transactions and a money laundering operation.
A series of arrests were made, with the final ones on the 6 December 2011. This action saw around 300 officers and staff from Bedfordshire, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk Constabularies execute search warrants across those counties.
Properties in Norwich, Hethersett, Foxley and, Shropham in Norfolk were targeted as well as properties in Erwarton, Woodbridge, Rushmere St Andrew, Ipswich, Harkstead, Elmswell and Holton St Mary targeted in Suffolk.
The key conspirators were arrested and remanded in custody.
In total, around two tonnes of cannabis was recovered on this operation. The value of which is estimated between five and six million pounds. The raids carried out and the subsequent seizures made massively disrupted the supply chain of cannabis into the region.
Detective Superintendent Mark Lay from ERSOU said: “This was a highly organised and professional criminal operation on an industrial scale. In one seizure we saw over 10 different types of cannabis seized. This in itself shows the capability of these criminals. The investigating team worked hard, long days to bring these people to justice, reducing the harm caused to our communities. There is no doubt this operation is a major success against dismantling serious organised crime in this region.
“This was a complex and sophisticated operation and a lot of work had gone into setting up this far reaching cannabis production and supply line.”
Det. Supt. Lay added: “I would like to thank those forces that supported us on this operation, as their contribution was essential, and ultimately the public in the provision of the intelligence to make this happen.
“The production of illegal drugs will not be tolerated and local people can be reassured that information passed to police will be acted on. I hope this outcome reassures communities in the region that we will act on information we receive.”
Jonathan Bird aged 38 from Longdell Hill, Norwich pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class B drugs, possession of a weapon and money laundering was sentenced to four years and three months.
Kerr John Smith aged 52 from Lawrence Place, Foxley pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class B drugs and was sentenced to three and half years.
David William Howard aged 38 from Warren Bottom Cottages, Erwarton pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class B drugs and money laundering and was sentenced to seven years.
Ivan Patten aged 25 from Tovells Road, Ipswich pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply class B drugs and was sentenced to six months suspended for two years and 220 hours community work.
Michael John Cookson aged 25 from Hyde in Cheshire pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply class B drugs and was sentenced to two and a half years.
Jonathan Roberts aged 34 from Cowdray Avenue, Colchester pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Supply Class B drugs and was sentenced to three and half years.
Gary Sherman aged 40 from Ipswich Avenue, Sutton, Woodbridge pleaded guilty to money laundering and was sentenced to 14 months.
Robert Anthony Moore, aged 41 from Ingrams Piece in Ardleigh in Essex pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Supply Class B Drugs and possession of a Class A drug and was sentenced to 12 months.
Three other individuals were convicted and sentenced last year for possession with intent to supply offences in connection with this operation. Their sentences ranged from 20 to 36 months imprisonment.