Belfast Telegraph

'Untouchable' NI drug lord who fled to Spain jailed over £900k haul

By Adrian Rutherford

A crime boss from Coleraine who thought he could not be caught and went on the run in Spain after police seized almost £900,000 worth of drugs has been sentenced.

Former gym owner Mark Dunford (41), of Ballylagan Lane in the town, has been behind bars for seven months.

Yesterday, at Dungannon Crown Court, he was sentenced to four-and-a-half years, half of which will be spent in custody and the rest on licence, after he admitted supplying amphetamines.

The defendant had been on the run in Spain after failing to turn up for a previous sentencing hearing in 2015.

Dunford's sentencing, along with two other defendants, was the culmination of a PSNI investigation into an organised crime gang selling class A and B drugs in Ballymena and Coleraine.

In September 2012, police stopped and searched vehicles in the two towns, uncovering 20 kilos of amphetamine and 300g of cocaine in the vehicles, and 1,100 ecstasy tablets in the garden of a house in Portglenone.

They had a combined estimated street value of £893,000.

Detectives linked Dunford, who has previous drugs convictions and ran a gym in Coleraine, to the haul through surveillance of a meeting with other drug dealers in England and analysis of telephone data.

Detective Sergeant Gary Moore said: "Mark Dunford believed he was untouchable because, in common parlance, he never got his hands dirty.

"He directed and controlled this criminality from what he believed was a safe distance, using a mobile phone and willing accomplices. Dunford thought that he was out of reach, but he was wrong."

Dunford's co-accused - Robert Holmes (42) of Glenone Villas, Portglenone, and Steven McBride of Foundry Court, Coleraine - were previously jailed for 15 months.

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