County Lines: 18 jailed for heroin and cocaine trafficking
Eighteen members of a drugs gang, estimated to have trafficked as much as £1.1m worth of heroin and cocaine, have been jailed.
They used cars and trains to transport drugs into mid Wales from Merseyside over a two-year period, sometimes carrying the drugs inside themselves.
They trafficked vulnerable youths to oversee drug deals.
Swansea Crown Court heard they would "bulk text" drug addicts to let them know when a new shipment arrived.
The court heard details of the "sophisticated" conspiracy led by the Merseyside-organised crime group in Llandrindod Wells and Newtown.
Dyfed-Powys Police's investigation ran from August 2016 to August 2018 and judge Geraint Walters praised the force for not being content with "catching the user of the low key street dealer" but targeting "the source."
The group would use couriers to transport them to Llandrindod Wells and Newtown - often with drugs secreted inside themselves or the couriers to avoid detection by police - to be sold on the streets of the towns.
All of the defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
- Michael Williams, 20, of Aberdale Road, Liverpool, sentenced to eight years
- Karl O'Hara, 28, of Upton Green, Liverpool, sentenced to three years and nine months
- Ryan Langshaw, 21, of no fixed abode, sentenced to six-and-a-half years
- Jack Ross, 22, of Witney Road, Liverpool, sentenced to three years and six months
- Anthony Andrew Byrne, 34, of Hillcrest Rise, Llandrindod Wells, sentenced to 12 years
- Rebecca Lloyd, 35, of Hillcrest Rise, Llandrindod Wells, sentenced to nine years and eight months
- Daniel Putterill, 22, of Tewit Hall Close, Liverpool, sentenced to four years
- Anthony James Butterworth, 52, of Heol Pengwern, Newtown, sentenced to five years
- Hazee Pardoe Wedge, 24, of Park Terrace, Llandrindod Wells, sentenced to four years
- David Brown, 35, of Little Weston, Montgomery, sentenced to six years
- Clive Phillips, 45, of Railway Terrace, Builth Wells, sentenced to seven years and two months
- Nathan Duringer, 19, of Armscott Close, Liverpool, sentenced to three years and two months
- Danielle Edith Wye, 29, of Pine Court, Newtown, sentenced to three years and two months
- Merlin Bonner, 30, of Nant Glas, Powys, sentenced to three years and four months
- Johann Hughes, 45, of Maes y Nant, Rhayader, sentenced to three years and seven months
- David Cledwyn Jones, 59, of Black Lane, Presteigne, sentenced to eight years
- Jack Chew, 20, of Dam Wood Road, Liverpool, sentenced to three years and seven months
- Nigel Barnett, 44, of Nant Glas, Powys, sentenced to six years
The hub in Newtown was at the home of Butterworth and in Llandrindod Wells the gang used the home of Byrne and Lloyd.
The court heard the use of the Llandrindod Wells property as a headquarters saw "dramatically increased" crime rates and calls to the police.
Police said members of the community were afraid of leaving their children outside.
They also said when the occupiers were arrested, neighbours lined the street "enthusiastically applauding the police".
Judge Walters told the court this was the first time he had ever heard of such a "profound" reaction from a community where the lives of dozens of people were ruined by the conspiracy.
The judge said the "true wickedness of the enterprise" was proved by the death of a young man called Simon Davies in Llandrindod in 2017.
"He died as a result of the drugs he had taken," he said.
"Rebecca Lloyd had sent him messages when drugs were available. There is evidence of his being in contact for similar reasons with Anthony Byrne."
Police achieved a breakthrough in May 2019 when they found O'Hara - who was travelling in a taxi travelling from Liverpool to mid Wales - had internally secreted about 38g of heroin and a similar amount of crack cocaine. The street value of the drugs was £8,400.
Residents of Llandrindod Wells and Newtown were also used by the gang to sell the drugs and report to its leaders in Liverpool.
They were mainly used to transport the Liverpool leaders of the gang back and forth.
Brown undertook the most trips, making a total of 30 visits to Liverpool.
The court heard Brown was not a drugs user and his motivation was "purely commercial".
Phillips, described as one of the main couriers, had "battled addiction to class A drugs" all his life, the court was told.
However in jailing him for seven years, the judge said: "If I had struggled with long term addiction to class A drugs, the last thing I would want to do is inflict that misery on others."
Supt Jon Cummins of Dyfed-Powys Police described the sentences as a "fantastic result" for the force and the communities affected.
"We knew there was a problem with OCGs [organised-crime gangs] from elsewhere in the UK travelling to our communities to supply Class A drugs in Powys. This will not be tolerated."
A 19th person will be sentenced in January.