Gang filmed showing off cash convicted of plot to supply Class A drugs
Nine defendants will be sentenced for their part in the operation, which sent drugs from London to Exeter.
A gang filmed showing off large bundles of cash have been convicted of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.
The county lines gang flooded Exeter in Devon with drugs from London, allegedly using children as young as 13 to deal heroin and crack cocaine.
They posted Snapchat videos of themselves throwing notes of money to the floor, with voices heard saying “splash that cash”.
Other footage showed members of the group handling large bundles of cash and showing off designer watches and shoes.
An investigation by Devon and Cornwall Police, named Operation Connard, began in July 2017.
It came after an undercover officer purchased drugs over the phone on a county line called Mitch, which was answered by a man with a London accent.
Police went to the pre-arranged pick-up point and seized drugs, cash and mobile phones – which revealed further county lines.
The Mitch line, along with two others named Rico and Pricey, was found to be sending hundreds of promotional text messages to drug users and dealers every day.
On Thursday, Shuiab Omar Awadh, 24, and Bobo Faki, 19, were found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs following a trial at Exeter Crown Court.
They will be sentenced alongside a further seven defendants, who previously admitted their part in the operation.
In August 2017, officers began monitoring the trafficking of drugs from London to Exeter.
Detective Constable Tracey Stafford said: “A large number of these journeys would be made by the gang who preyed on children to undertake drug-running and cash collection for the gang
“Four children aged 13 to 15 were befriended by members of the gang in London before being turned on and threatened, claiming that they lost packages and now owed the gangs hundreds of pounds which they didn’t have.”
Ms Stafford said defendants “coerced and threatened children into making drug runs from London to Exeter”.
“Thankfully, as part of our investigations, we have managed to identify and help these children, freeing them from the grasp of the gang and allowing them to hopefully have a different future,” she added.
The children involved included one teenage girl and three teenage boys, all from London.
One of the boys, known as Kid A, was 14 when he jumped out of a first floor window with defendant Ahmed Abdullahi, aged 21.
Officers attending the incident found discarded drugs and cash, with Kid A’s phone revealing texts linked to the county lines.
In November 2017, a boy known as Kid B was located by officers and found to have crack cocaine and heroin hidden on him.
He was frightened and told police: “I’m in more debt now, I already owe them £600.”
A 14-year-old girl, known as Kid C, was also allegedly told she owed the gang money and would have to pay it back.
In August 2018, a boy referred to as Kid D was found in possession of crack cocaine and heroin.
Detective Sergeant Matt Lawrence said all four were coerced into a “gang lifestyle” by the defendants.
“The gang would brazenly show off their ill-gotten gains,” he said.
“I would like to personally thank all who worked on this wide and complex case for their hard work and efforts.
“Without them these individuals would still be dealing Class A drugs and coercing children into a gang lifestyle.”
“Devon and Cornwall Police continue to work hard to identify those responsible for the drug trade in our area and to bring them to justice; they ruin lives and we will not turn a blind eye to this type of gang activity.”
The operation was supported by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit.
Detective Chief Inspector Ben Mant, in charge of the region’s covert teams, said: “Specialist undercover officers spent more than 10 months gathering in excess of 2,500 pieces of intelligence to help Devon and Cornwall Police secure these convictions and protect children from the gang’s violence.”
During the investigation, almost 100 mobile phones were seized and downloaded.
The seven defendants who admitted conspiracy to supply Class A drugs are:
:: Hassan Sufi, 20, of Valence Avenue, Essex
:: Yakub Sufi, 19, of Valence Avenue, Essex
:: Ahmed Abdullahi, 21, of Seymour Road, London
:: Faisal Ibrahim, 24, of Upper Road, London
:: Khadija Shariff, 20, of Crest Walk, South Woodford, London
:: Robin Janowski, 39, of Stepcote Hill, Exeter
:: Jake Taplin, 22, of Portelet Road, London.
A further 17 defendants, identified as local street dealers as part of the investigation, have already been sentenced at previous hearings.