A Peterlee man has been jailed for 12 years for his role in a conspiracy to flood the North East with cocaine worth almost £3million.
Nicholas Casselden was one of four men sentenced by a judge at Newcastle Crown Court.
Casselden was convicted alongside fellow defendants Paul McGovern and Dean Wear by a jury at Newcastle in June after a three-week trial.
They had been arrested in 2017 following a year-long investigation by detectives at the North East Regional Special Operations Unit.
The investigative team 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.
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 but Casselden, 42, McGovern, 46, and Wear, 54, all denied the charges.
The case went to trial but they were convicted by a jury and now they have been sentenced to a total of 38 years behind bars.
Following the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Colling said the length of the sentences reflected how big a conspiracy this was: "These sentences are the result of hard work and an extensive investigation by our specialist detectives.
"To see these men put behind bars for such a significant period of time is very satisfying and the streets are a safer place without them.
"They were a sophisticated and organised criminal organisation who thought they would get away with their crimes even during the trial.
"The result today sends a strong warning to similar organised crime groups - we will identify you, prosecute you and dismantle your organisation.
"We will now seek to confiscate their assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act to prevent them from continuing their life of crime when they are eventually released from prison.
"Even if you manage to avoid detection for years these convictions show that the law will catch up with you eventually."
DCI Colling added: "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.
"With these men behind bars we have been able to prevent those drugs from flooding our region and means the North East is today a safer place to live."
Casselden, of Manor Way, Peterlee, was jailed for 12 years.
McGovern, of Liverton Avenue, Guisborough, was jailed for 10 years.
Wear, of Albion Road, North Shields, was jailed for 10 years
Carr, of Redesdale Road, North Shields, was jailed for six years and eight months.
During the investigation, detectives made a number of other significant seizures including more than £5,000 cash, small quantities of cocaine, cannabis resin, scales with traces of cocaine, encrypted mobile telephones and drug