Bid to claw back drug profits

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PROSECUTORS will seek to strip members of one of Hartlepool’s biggest drug rings of their ill-gotten gains.

Proceeds of crime proceedings are due to start tomorrow for four members of the gang that was jailed for more than 26 years in April.

The network dealing in cocaine, amphetamine and cannabis worth up to £400,000 was smashed at the end of last year when police raided two houses in Hutton Avenue, Hartlepool.

Former Hoda 26 taxi boss Craig Wilson, 37, was named as the ringleader of the gang.

Five men all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs at Teesside Crown Court.

Craig Wilson, of Relton Way, Hartlepool, was put behind bars for six years and eight months.

Lee McDonough, 33, of Gibson Grove, David Hall, 44, of Hutton Avenue, both Hartlepool were each jailed for five years.

And James Murphy, 22, of Stanhope Drive, Liverpool, got four years and six months.

They ran the “sophisticated operation” between March 7 and September 7 last year.

The gang’s dealings first came to light when police were told about two men acting suspiciously in Hutton Avenue.

Officers uncovered a huge cannabis farm in one house and more plants and equipment next door.

Packets of cocaine and amphetamine were also littered around the houses.

Detectives unravelled the operation by going through phone records which showed all members of the gang were frequently in touch and had met at the luxurious Malmaison Hotel, in Newcastle.

All were said to have become involved due to debts.

Recorder Alistair Macdonald said at sentencing: “This was a sophisticated operation and one that was not to go directly to the street but to a further level of dealers.”

Confiscation orders are brought by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to deprive criminals of the proceeds of their crimes.

All confiscation order payments go to the Treasury.

Adam Wilson, 25, of Lynmouth Walk, Hartlepool, was also sentenced to five years’ jail but is not subject to the confiscation proceedings.