`

North East £2.7m cocaine gang convicted after undercover operation

Four men have been convicted of conspiracy to supply £2.7 million of cocaine across the North East following a covert operation by detectives.

Nicholas Casselden, Paul McGovern and Dean Wear were convicted by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court after a three-week trial.

Clockwise from left: Dean Wear, Paul McGovern, Anthony Carr and Nicholas Casselden.

Clockwise from left: Dean Wear, Paul McGovern, Anthony Carr and Nicholas Casselden.

They had been arrested in 2017 following a year-long investigation by detectives at the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU).

The investigative team had spent months using covert surveillance, during which they witnessed drug deals taking place.

A number of searches were carried out following the arrests, which saw officers seize 4kg of high purity cocaine.

It was later estimated that the street value of the drugs could have been worth as much as £2,752,000.

One of the packages recovered by NERSOU.

One of the packages recovered by NERSOU.

Other significant seizures include over £5,000 cash, small quantities of cocaine, cannabis resin, scales with traces of cocaine, encrypted mobile telephones and drug debt lists.

The three defendants – along with a fourth man called Anthony Carr – were arrested and later charged with conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, namely cocaine.

Carr, 39, pleaded guilty at an earlier court appearance.

Casselden, 42, McGovern, 46, and Wear, 54, had denied the charges but they were convicted by a jury.

A number of packages were found by detectives as part of their year-long operation.

A number of packages were found by detectives as part of their year-long operation.

Following the case at Newcastle Crown Court, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Colling said he was “delighted” with the convictions.

He said: “Cocaine is an incredibly addictive drug, which causes untold physical harm to those who abuse it.

“Not only does it ruin the lives of those who use it but it also has a devastating social impact on our communities

“We are delighted with the outcome of this trial.

A section of a cannabis farm found as a result of investigations.

A section of a cannabis farm found as a result of investigations.

"The conviction of these men today should send a very clear message to organised crime groups in the North East.

“We will pursue you, and use every tactic at our disposal to disrupt your criminal activities.

“We will prosecute you and dismantle your criminal organisations in order to make our communities safer.

“These men made a huge amount of money through this criminality and that will now be assessed with the view of confiscating their assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

"This will prevent them from continuing their life of crime.

“We will continue to put serious offenders before the courts and remain committed to protecting our local communities from organised crime.”

The inquiries centred on the supply of cocaine in the North East.

The inquiries centred on the supply of cocaine in the North East.

Casselden, of Manor Way, Peterlee; McGovern, of Liverton Avenue, Guisbrough; Wear, of Albion Road, North Shields; and Carr, of Redesdale Road, North Shields, will now all be sentenced at Teesside Crown Court on Friday, July 6.

Cannabis plants seized by police as part of the probe into the activities of the gang.

Cannabis plants seized by police as part of the probe into the activities of the gang.