POLICE tracked a drugs courier from Hartlepool to a house where £2m worth of amphetamines was seized as it was being processed to flood the streets, a court was told.
The man was under observation as he drove a hire car to Liverpool to meet up with a recognised crime group in the North West.
The rental car, which had North East number plates, was left overnight in the car park of the Nag’s Head pub on the city’s outskirts and the next day he switched to a Skoda car with a Liverpool registration.
Police teams were watching as the Skoda linked with another car, and cardboard boxes were transferred between the two vehicles.
The drivers then went through an intricate pattern of anti-surveillance moves, driving around and switching cars before the Skoda parked outside a house in Colwell Road, Liverpool, and both drivers went inside.
But Teesside Crown Court heard the Hartlepool courier panicked and abandoned the Skoda, went back to the pub and jumped into the hire car and he drove back to the North East.
A separate case to sentence other men from Hartlepool, other parts of the North East and the North West, is listed for Teesside Crown Court in June and is reported to involve drugs worth “hundreds of millions of pounds”.
Police raided the house after the boxes had been transferred inside on January 31 last year where 200 kilos of amphetamine paste worth two million pounds at street level was being processed in a washing up bowl.
Prosecuting, Peter Makepeace said that three Liverpool men including the owner of the house who appeared for sentencing were nabbed before they received a penny for their parts.
He added: “It is clearly dealing on a very large commercial scale, ten times greater than any envisaged in the sentencing guidelines.
“The wholesale value of the drugs was half a million pounds and the street value was two million pounds.”
The amphetamine paste was being cut with large quantities of caffeine which was in the cardboard boxes along with a heat sealing machine.
It was also being laced with large amounts of vodka, which one of the men was sent to buy from a corner store.
The man who mixed the drugs and was wearing gloves when the police burst in was James Ainsworth, 25, who said he was forced to take part over a drug debt.
The house owner Colin Cheshire, 51, was also involved in the mixing and Henry Dinely, 55, was recruited at the last moment to transfer the boxes.
Nicola Horton, defending Ainsworth, said that he accepted his fate in court, but he was worried for his family.
David Woods, defending the other men, said that he had been struggling to pay the mortgage on the house when he agreed to let it be used by the gang.
Judge Peter Armstrong told the three men: “Those who get themselves involved in cases of this size, I’m afraid, have to suffer the consequences.”
Ainsworth, of Weaver Avenue, Kirkby, Liverpool, and Cheshire, of Colwell Road, Liverpool, were both jailed for six years and Dineley, of Mear Green, Walton, Liverpool, was jailed for 30 months after they pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply a Class B drug between January 28 and February 4 last year.