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Dealers splashed £40k on wedding

A couple who were part of a family run multi-million drugs ring blew £40,000 on their wedding while still claiming benefits.

Carl and Donna Honey-Jones were hauled before a judge along with four relatives to be sentenced for their part in flooding the streets of Swansea with cocaine.

Prosecutor Ian Wright QC said the pair lived the kind of lavish lifestyle reserved for the rich and famous - jetting off to all inclusive trips to the Maldives and even paying for a family trip to Lapland.

The couple also splashed the cash on their wedding too - tying the knot at a 14th Century Church before going to a packed reception via horse and cart.

But Swansea Crown Court heard the Honey-Jones' frivolous spending soon stood out like a sore thumb to the authorities.

They drove around in a top-of-the-range Audi and BMW, both with private number plates, and lived in a suburban four-bedroomed home - while still in minimum wage jobs and claiming thousands in benefits.

Mr Honey-Jones, described by a judge as the "inept" head of his family run conspiracy, even got his father-in-law Brian Harding on the act - with the 58-year-old mixing cocaine with cutting agents in his garage.

Also caught out was the 31-year-old's cousin Matthew Jones, who was stopped by police while driving an expensive Mercedes which had thousands of pounds in the boot.

And 32-year-old Mrs Honey-Jones' brother and sister inadvertently shopped themselves after calling the police after receiving threats from gangsters.

Judge Paul Thomas said the Honey-Jones' operation - which saw large quantities of cocaine brought from Liverpool to Swansea - was motivated by greed.

He said: "Carl Honey-Jones you were the dealer principle and in your case it financed a extravagant lifestyle of foreign holidays, a lavish wedding and luxury cars.

"The sums involved were in the seven-figures and you Carl Honey-Jones were at the very top of that conspiracy.

"Although it was was lucrative, the operation that you led was inept and amateurish.

"Top of the range cars and luxury brands in Penlan Road were bound to attract suspicion."

The drugs network was taken apart after police raided 11 addresses in Swansea last year.

Cocaine with a potential street value of £750,000, and almost £60,000 in cash was seized along with expensive jewellery - including a genuine Rolex watch - as well as cars and quad bikes.

Detectives also found a notebook detailing drug-deals - with the amounts described in court as "eye watering".

Receipts for the wedding of the Honey-Jones' totalling £40,000 were discovered and various family holidays to Mexico, Dubai, Maldives and Florida also costing around £40,000.

A Christmas trip to Lapland had been booked, but never went ahead as the Honey-Joneses had been arrested.

Prosecutor Mr Wright said the pair were "living the high life" despite their limited means.

The court heard Donna was working a £6,000-a -year minimum wage job, while her husband was working on a "pay-as-you-earn" basis on a £5,000 salary.

"In that same year they went on to claim state benefit", Mr Wright said in his opening.

The Honey-Joneses both pleaded guilty to money laundering, while Carl also confessed to conspiring to supply Class A drugs.

Harding admitted he was a "willing conspirator" in the enterprise and mixed cocaine with cough drop agent Benzocaine to make the amounts of the drug they had go further - therefore increasing the profit margin.

The court heard Harding also used a "heavy duty press" in this process so give the appearance of their product being a higher purity than it actually was.

The court heard that Carl's "right hand man" Matthew Jones, 24, then sold the drug to other dealers further down the chain and would collect the money before handing it over to his cousin.

As police raided the Honey-Joneses house, his car was seen nearby by detectives.

And when he was later stopped by officers, he claimed that £2,700 cash in the boot of his car was just his savings before saying: "I know you just done over the Honey-Joneses".

Meanwhile Harding's children, Laura Harding, 31, and David Owens, 41, became involved following the raids.

Owens said he feared for his life after getting threatening phone calls from gangsters from Liverpool saying there was still cocaine outstanding that the police had not recovered.

His sister Laura then found the drugs and the items were then sent "to persons unknown".

However the threats continued and the pair, genuinely fearing for their lives, called the police.

But detectives later found out that Owens posted on social media site Facebook that he had returned £250,000 of cocaine to its owners, adding: "I am not as dull as the rest of the family".

Both Laura Harding and Owens pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice.

In mitigation for Carl Honey-Jones, barrister John Hipkin said his client pleaded guilty at an the earliest opportunity, and had also spent the time spent in prison on remand productively.

Donna Honey-Jones' barrister Catherine Richards, in mitigation for her client, insisted she was a woman who was just "taking cash from her husband and spending it".

The barrister added that the defendant had apologised to her children for the trauma the legal proceedings had involved, and had "learned her lesson".

Dan Hurd, in mitigation for Brian Harding, said his client admitted he was a "willing conspirator" in the family business but added his client suffered from ill health and had become involved in the enterprise to pay off debts.

John Hartson, for Jones, said his client maintained the position he had held during his trial, namely that he was not involved in conspiracy to supply cocaine.

However, Judge Paul Thomas disagreed and said Jones was Carl Honey-Jones' "right hand man" while the circumstances surrounding Laura Harding and Owens were described as "very unusual, perhaps unique"


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