Hartlepool man travelled around the globe to launder £500,000 drugs money

Operation Roderigo raids in Hampstead Gardens, Hartlepool.

Operation Roderigo raids in Hampstead Gardens, Hartlepool.

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A member of a major drug dealing network between Hartlepool and the North West also helped to launder up to £500,000 of other illegal profits, a court heard.

Neal Gutteridge, 30, of Gower Walk, Hartlepool, is facing a substantial jail sentence for his crimes.

Adrian Morfitt

Adrian Morfitt

As well as being part of the Hartlepool and Meseryside operation - which dealt in drugs with an estimated street value of over £30 million - Gutteridge also helped to launder drug proceeds for other criminals.

Teesside Crown Court heard police bugged his Mercedes car and watched him jetting off all over the world including China and Europe.

Peter Makepeace, prosecuting, said Gutteridge was linked to four cash handovers in 2013 using another man as his agent.

In April 2013 police swooped on a supermarket car park in Didsbury and recovered a bag containing £95,000 which had been collected by an agent for unknown criminals in the North West. The cash contained traces of cocaine.

Mr Makepeace said Gutteridge directed the handover by phone from Spain.

And £80,000 was recovered in another bust at the same location in July 2013.

In March of that year police watched as Gutteridge jetted off to Malaga.

Mr Makepeace said: “There was very considerable and ongoing communications and exchanges with others involved in the drugs trade.”

Gutteridge himself was caught with £39,000 in a rucksack in November 2013 in Manchester.

A bug placed in a Hartlepool pub overheard Gutteridge asking someone with accounting expertise how he could explain the money.

Mr Makpeace said from the money seized and similar handovers seen it could be inferred Gutterridge had laundered up to £500,000.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess criminal property.

Gutteridge was also directly involved in the cross-Pennine drug dealing as part of the Hartlepool organisation headed by Adrian Morfitt and David Garside.

Phone contact evidence showed he was part of a deal of amphetamine with a potential street value of about £1.3 million collected by a courier from Newcastle in Hart village in August 2012.

He also attended two meetings with Morfitt, Garside and top members of the Liverpool gang in September 2012.

Gutteridge also acted as an escort for a delivery to Hartlepool of 37 kilos of cannabis belonging to Garside and Morfitt in October 2012.

He admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine, amphetamine and cannabis.

Christopher Knox, mitigating, said Gutteridge should only be sentenced for the cash it could be proved he helped to launder.

He said his time in the separate drug dealing conspiracy was limited, adding: “There is no evidence of an extravagant lifestyle.”

The court also heard mitigation from three other Hartlepool men involved in the drug dealing conspiracy.

Jonathan Anders, for Morfitt, 30, of Caistor Drive, who was at the top of the Hartlepool operation said: “He has never been in trouble before for dealing. He understands the consequences of his actions to a great extent and regrets his role in the offences.”

Mark Williamson, 37, of Marlowe Road, Hartlepool, will be sentenced for conspiracy to supply 25kilos of amphetamine to the North West group which was seized by police in May 2013.

Nick Peacock, mitigating, said the former soldier had fallen on hard times after being made redundant in defence cuts.

“He has very clearly behaved in a very foolish way,” said Mr Peacock.

Barrister Dominic Bell, mitigating for Richard Ryan, 36, of Marlowe Road, Hartlepool, who admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and amphetamine, said: “It’s clear he was acting at the direction of somebody else. He was performing a limited function.”

l In yesterday’s Mail it was stated that Graham Mitchell, 52, of Danby Grove, Hartlepool, was to be sentenced for drug dealing charges.

He actually admitted possession of criminal property, namely £50,000 on October 31, 2013.