Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

£6m cocaine operation gang jailed

A photograph issued by Kent police showing some of the drugs they seized from the smuggling gang

A criminal gang behind a sophisticated Class A drugs operation have been jailed after police seized cocaine with an estimated street value of about £6 million.

Detectives said the "highly-organised" nine-strong network pocketed thousands of pounds by selling the drugs to high-end dealers in parts of Kent. Some of the cocaine seized was found to be 94% pure. Officers also found a large amount of a common cutting agent for cocaine as well as the Class C drug TFMPP.

The investigation by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate began after Lee Phillips, 30, was stopped by a patrol in the Canterbury area in September 2011. A bag of cocaine was found in the glove box of his van, as well as more than £1,200 in cash. Weighing scales and traces of cocaine were then found at his home during a search.

On the same night, fellow gang members Daniel Bridge, 27, and Justin McColl, 31, were stopped in a car near to McColl's home and a bag of cocaine was found. As the inquiry gathered pace, further arrests followed and search warrants were executed at properties in Herne Bay, Ashford, Chartham, Sturry and Broadstairs in December 2011.

Drugs, mobile phones, counterfeit cash and weapons, including a crossbow, were seized by police, who spent hours trawling through mobile phone data and other intelligence to link the nine-strong ring.

Kent Police said eight of the gang admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine. The ninth defendant, 30-year-old Rachel Deal, was convicted of the offence following a trial. On Thursday, as eight of them were sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court, a judge said they ran the sophisticated drugs operation like a business in broad daylight.

Angela McColl, 52, of Prospect Road, Broadstairs, was given a two-year suspended jail term, Phillips, of Priorless Road, Canterbury, was given four years behind bars and Bridge, of Carlton Avenue, Broadstairs, three years.

Daniel D'Age, 28, of St George's Terrace, Herne Bay, was jailed for eight years, Kieren Mitchell, 30, of Roosevelt Avenue, Chatham, received five years, and McColl, of Camden Road, Broadstairs, got four years.

Robert Curtis, 41, of Leighville Drive, Herne Bay, was handed a four-year jail term, Deal, also of Leighville Drive, Herne Bay, got a two-year suspended sentence and Aaron Blake, 31, of Tenterden Drive, Canterbury, will be sentenced on March 22.

Following the case, Detective Constable Martin Lacey said: "We have been successful in taking millions of pounds worth of drugs off the streets and will continue to relentlessly pursue those intent in profiting from the death and misery caused by illegal drugs."