A two-year police investigation was needed to smash the Hartlepool-Liverpool drugs connection which brought up to £30m of illegal drugs into the UK.
Four major players in the conspiracy were yesterday jailed for a total of 55 years, with other gang members due to be sentenced next week.
Hartlepool men Adrian Morfitt and David Garside, both 30, worked with Liverpool dealers to flood the streets with cocaine and amphetamine, Teesside Crown Court heard.
As reported by the Mail yesterday, the pair, both 30, received jail terms totalling nearly 24 years, while Merseyside kingpins Ian Stanton, 44, and Keith Watson, 38, received sentences totalling more than 31 years.
Here’s how police smashed their drugs ring, in an operation codenamed Roderigo which lasted two years.
• August 8, 2012: Police recover 12kg of amphetamine with a street value of £1.3m in a car on the A19 near Easington. The drugs had been supplied in Hartlepool by David Garside, Adrian Morfitt, Paul Rudd, and Neal Gutteridge to Andrew Liddle, of Newcastle. It was one of 14 journeys made by Liddle.
• October 4, 2012: Cleveland Police intercept 35.7kg of cannabis worth £215,000 and 1.2kg of cocaine with a street value of £200,000 from Carl Miller, of Marlowe Road, Hartlepool. It later transpired the drugs belonged to Garside and Morfitt.
• April 19, 2013: A car carrying Mofitt, North West ringleader Keith Watson and Richard Ryan, from Hartlepool, was stopped by police in Hart Lane. Samples of drugs were found, along with a dealer’s list, and information about how to set up an amphetamine lab. Police believe it was the two groups’ plan to establish an amphetamine factory in the North East, and at some point a functioning lab was created in Hartlepool.
• May 31, 2013: Liverpool courier Craig Gibson is found with 24kg of amphetamine hidden in a secret compartment of his car and more than £44,0000 in cash after travelling to Hartlepool where a deal went down with Mark Williamson.
• August 8, 2013: The Liverpool gang arrange for 2kg of high-purity cocaine (import standard) to be delivered to the North East. One kilo is recovered by police in Hartlepool and Lee Ryan, Robert Elsdon and Alan Forcer are arrested by police. The courier, Mark Devine, is arrested a short time later in Middlesbrough. He was found to be in possession of a further kilo of cocaine and £43,910. Potential street value between £177,176 and £1,417,256.
• November 1, 2013: Police intercepted a further delivery of cocaine form the North West to the North East. The day previous a Hartlepool taxi driver, Graham Mitchell, had been employed to deliver a package to Liverpool containing cash, believed to be £50,000. Christopher Evans travelled to Hartlepool with a kilo of high-purity cocaine.
Darren Crossley was employed to collect the package on its arrival. However, they were intercepted by the police. The package had a potential street value of £61,480 to £664,000, Operation Chawton was an investigation conducted by the Matrix Serious and Organised Crime Department of Merseyside Police with Cleveland Police Organised Crime Team.
• November 19, 2013: Several warrants were executed in Liverpool recovered from numerous addresses was 100 litres of amphetamine oil of 100% purity. It had potential street value of £12,857,140. They also recovered 2.95kg of heroin and £26,480 cash. An amphetamine laboratory was discovered at a unit in Hornby Boulevard, Bootle, Liverpool.
• January 31, 2014: Hartlepool-based gang member Richard Ryan was instructed to go to Liverpool to mix up a large quantity of amphetamine. He met members of the Liverpool gang and embarked upon complex anti-surveillance manoeuvres before attending Colwell Road, Liverpool. He became aware of surveillance activity and made a hasty retreat to Hartlepool. A warrant was executed in Colwell Road, Liverpool, and 80 kilos of amphetamine paste was recovered which was in the process of being bashed up. The amphetamine had a purity of 97% and potential street value of £1m.