‘Money man’ who helped Hartlepool drug dealers is jailed

A surveillance photo of Phillip Darby, left, meeting Neal Gutteridge at Hartlepool Marina.
A surveillance photo of Phillip Darby, left, meeting Neal Gutteridge at Hartlepool Marina.

A man who helped to launder drugs money for two Hartlepool dealers as part of a multi-million pound plot to flood the streets has been jailed.

Phillip Darby, along with Neal Gutteridge, handled thousands of pounds of cash as a result of large scale dealing overseen by Adrian Morfitt and David Garside.

He accepts he stupidly at the age of 57 got drawn into this and will have to take his punishment.

Thomas Moran, mitigating

Police watched a number of suspected big money handovers on behalf of the dealers carried out by Darby, 57, of Silverwood Road, Hartlepool.

Prosecutor Peter Makepeace said the cash Darby delivered was drugs money closely linked to chief Hartlepool dealers Morfitt and Garside who were jailed for more than 23 years on Thursday.

Mr Makepeace said: “The criminal property was the proceeds of the drug dealing which this court has been concerned with for the last two weeks, namely a cross regional large scale conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs.”

Mr Makepeace outlined three occasions when Darby, under the direction of Gutteridge, 30, from Hartlepool, was watched by police involved in cash exchanges. Two, in January and June 2013, took place in a supermarket car park in Didsbury, near Manchester when Darby passed packages of cash to Aqib Hussain, 27, said to be an agent for unknown criminals in the North West.

Darby also handed over £90,000 in a similar exchange with another man in April at Donnington Services in the East Midlands.

Mr Makepeace said phone evidence showed the handover was orchestrated by Gutteridge from Spain.

It is not known where all of the money ended up.

Darby, a former welder, who has previous drug-related convictions, pleaded guilty to money laundering.

He was jailed for three and a half years.

Thomas Moran, mitigating, said: “He accepts he stupidly at the age of 57 got drawn into this and will have to take his punishment.”

He said while Darby handled large sums of cash he did not get to keep it.

Judge Peter Armstrong said: “You were recruited by Gutteridge to assist him in laundering substantial amounts of money which had been raised during the course of a drugs conspiracy.” Gutteridge, of Gower Walk, Hartlepool, has also pleaded guilty to money laundering charges and is due to be sentenced on Monday. Taxi driver Graham Mitchell, 51, was given a 12 months’ prison for delivering £50,000 to Liverpool drug dealer Keith Watson, for David Garside in Hartlepool, on October 31 last year.

Mitchell, of Danby Grove, Hartlepool, admitted possession of criminal property. He was released after serving the equivalent of 20 months in prison while on remand and on a tagged curfew.