Tyne & Wear

Gang sentenced for £55m drug plot

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Media captionThe drugs were estimated to have a street value of £55m

Members of a gang which attempted to flood north-east England with drugs have been jailed.

Heroin and amphetamines with an estimated value of £55m were seized from a storage unit in North Yorkshire.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the drugs had been imported from Europe by unwitting furniture removal firms.

Nine men from Tyneside, Teesside, Northampton, Nottingham and Slough were given jail terms ranging from two years eight months to 11 years.

Operation Patton was launched in 2012 by the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU), involving specialist staff from the Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland forces.

During the investigation 30kg of heroin and 408kg of amphetamines were seized in Thirsk, along with about half a million pounds in cash.

It was described as the area's biggest drugs bust.

The court was told the gang duped legitimate removal companies, who were unaware of their illegal activities, to import the drugs.

Six members of the gang pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class B drugs

Money laundering

The leader, Michael Watts, 48 , of Bedeburn Road, Jarrow, was jailed for 10 years and two months.

Neil Hoban, 52, of Casson Way, Stockton, was given eight years five months.

David Faulkener, 54, of Belfry Lane, Collington, Northampton, was sentenced to six years.

Darren Herbert, 44, of Marshleys Court, Northampton, was sentenced to five years.

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Image caption Det Supt Tim Walker said a large amount of drugs had been taken out of supply

Michael Li, 48, of Fieldfare Close, Cory, Northamptonshire, was sentenced to eight years four months.

David Drew, 48 of Woodside Avenue, Northampton, was sentenced to six years.

Kevin Christopher Murray had denied the charge but was found guilty. The 39-year-old of Weaverthorpe Road, Nottingham, was sentenced to 11 years.

Two men; Andrew Yates and Abdur Rahman Kahn, pleaded guilty to money laundering.

Yates, 28, of Fountains Close, Washington, was sentenced to two years eight months and 38-year-old Khan of Balmoral Close, Slough, to three years and two months.

In June 2013, two other gang members, Aaron Nesbitt, 28 of Stillington, and 37-year-old Kirk Anderson, of Stockton, were sentenced to 14 and 10 years respectively after pleading guilty to possession with intent to supply.

Det Supt Tim Walker from NERSOU said: "Its not just the amount of drugs seized - the heroin and amphetamine - more importantly it's about the players who've been taken out.

"The impact of that in terms of the disruption of drugs getting into our community is significant."

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