Jailed boyfriend of Towie star may be released within weeks
The boyfriend of Towie star Cara Kilbey may walk free within weeks after being cleared of masterminding a multimillion-pound drugs empire but jailed for possessing criminal property.
Daniel Harris, 33, was accused of making "vast profits" by sending drug couriers disguised as trainee cabbies on mopeds around central London over three-and-a-half years.
He was also charged over a £200,000 heroin deal which was scuppered by police in May 2015 and having £116,000 in ill-gotten gains hidden in his young daughter's bedroom.
Officers from the Organised Crime Partnership (OCP), a joint National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police Service unit, began investigating the group in the spring of 2015, with Harris arrested a year later.
An Old Bailey jury deliberated for a day to clear him of plotting to supply cocaine and heroin, but found him guilty of stashing the money.
He was jailed on Friday at the London court for two years, but he could be out from behind bars by mid-March, having already served almost a year in Wandsworth prison.
As he sentenced Harris, Judge Nicholas Cooke QC warned him that if he continued dabbling in the world of organised crime he risked ruining his life.
He told the seated defendant: "I warn you that associating with people of the type that you associated, which in this case has brought you to the Central Criminal Court charged with exceptionally serious offending, is likely to ruin your life.
"If there is any good in you, you should turn your back on such people.
"If you fail to do so, the future will be bleak."
He also said it was his job as a judge to do everything in his power to "crush such people" and "try to put a stop to the nefarious drug in trade".
Quizzed on £116,000 in bank notes found in his daughter's wardrobe, Harris had told the court he was given it to help fund his father's legal defence against drug-smuggling claims.
Harris's father was arrested in December 2015 for allegedly smuggling drugs from Spain to the UK but Harris denied involvement.
He said of the money: "It may well have come from crime or some sort of criminal activity but I don't know the origins of it."
Prosecutor Peter Clement told the judge that Harris had been "no mere custodian" of the stash, but arranged for it to be gathered, collected it and kept it for weeks before it was discovered - "all with a view to smuggling to another jurisdiction".
He acknowledged the offence was not motivated by personal gain, instead arising "out of his father's crisis rather than his own".
But, he said, an aggravating factor was that the cash was tainted by organised crime and that its intended destination was outside the UK.
Defending, David Whittaker told the court the unemployed defendant had no money and had not funded the costs of his trial.
Mr Cooke ordered him to pay £4,576 costs to be paid within 56 days and a victim surcharge of £120, adding he was satisfied Harris could draw on assistance from others to help with the payment.
The man's TV star girlfriend was nowhere to be seen as Harris, wearing a black V-neck jumper and tie over a white shirt, was sent down to serve the rest of his sentence behind bars.
Police launched a covert surveillance operation tracking Harris's movements, arresting him in March 2016.
Other men, some of whom were Harris's friends, went on to plead guilty to their part in the plots and have been jailed for up to 16-and-a-half years.
The group, which may have had a peak turnover of nearly £500,000 a week, kept the activity under wraps by hiring an East End flat and lock-up where they stored six scooters and packaged the cocaine.
Harris knew some of his friends were drug dealers and, after being let in on their secret, said he made use of the moped delivery service once.
Spencer Barnett from the OCP said the gang was a "highly disciplined crime group who went to elaborate lengths to stay under the radar of law enforcement".
He said: "At the time of their arrest the group was planning another significant importation of cocaine from South America which would have been used for street deals across London, impacting significantly upon communities.
"By dismantling their operation we have been able to prevent the harm that would have been caused."
The group distributed more than 88lb (40kg) of cocaine, with an estimated wholesale value of £1.4 million, across the capital over a period of three weeks in February 2016, boasting via text they could deliver the drugs within 30 minutes anywhere in central London, the NCA said.
The other defendants have already been sentenced for their various involvement in either or both of the drugs plots.
Joseph Maloney, 33, of Tower Hamlets, east London, received 15 years; Jay Tripp, 34, of Fyfield, Essex, 16-and-a-half years; Jack Lyman, 28, of Bexley, Kent, seven years; Danny Ward, 34, of Beckenham, Kent, 11 years; Nial Kellaghan, 29, of Greenwich, south-east London, seven years; Dean Standen, 34, of Sidcup, Kent, seven years and nine months; and Daniel Crook, 32, of HMP Peterborough, five years.
Frederick Jennings, 20, of south-east London, was handed 21 months' detention suspended for 18 months with 200 hours of unpaid work.