Drug dealers stripped of Â£1m of criminal gains
Assets worth over Â£1 million have been seized from drug gangs who operated in Liverpool and Hartlepool
High value watches, cash, houses, cars and even a part interest in a French fishing lake have been seized from 19 criminals involved in the cross-Pennine drug dealing network.
Organised crime groups based in the North West and Hartlepool dealt in unprecedented amounts of high grade drugs including cocaine, amphetamine and cannabis.
A total of 22 people, including nine from Hartlepool, were jailed for between two years and 12 years in 2015 for their roles after police operation Roderigo.
Since then, the North East Regional Asset Recovery Team has worked to strip the criminals of their ill-gotten gains under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
At Teesside Crown Court today, the last confiscation order in the case was made against Shaun Stanton, 35, from Crosby, Merseyside, who was previously sentenced to five and a half years.
The court heard he benefited from crime by Â£435,281 which will be repaid from his interest in numerous properties in Liverpool and Â£150,000 cash in the bank.
The Hartlepool-based dealing gang was headed by town men Adrian Morfitt, 32, formerly of Caistor Drive, and David Garside, 33, previously of Hampstead Gardens who were jailed in 2015 for 12 years and 11 years eight months respectively.
Previous hearings found Morfitt had profited by more than Â£700,000 and Garside by over Â£950,000.
Garside was found to have Â£32,220 in available assets including a BMW 730 sold for Â£16,500, an Omega watch sold for Â£2,650 and Â£11,500 cash in the bank.
Morfitt had Â£30,137 of available assets including cash and Â£29,000 equity in a house.
The interest in the French carp fishing lake was paid for by Lisa Archer, 42, from Wrexham.
DS Thomas Maughan from the asset recovery team said: "Operation Roderigo was a great success in terms of how the operation was run between Cleveland Police, Merseyside Police and the National Crime Agency and we saw some great results at court.
"Once the defendants had been jailed the N-E RART alongside the Crown Prosecution Service worked tirelessly to see exactly how these criminals had benefited from their illicit activity.
"It's now apparent that they have gained assets worth over Â£1 million from crime. That is a big hit against criminals' lifestyle. and we still have the potential to go back to court for more in the future until the full debt is paid.
"We will continue to use the Proceeds of Crime Act to its full extent to remove criminal assets and also stop them investing in further criminality."
Police launched the undercover operation in August 2012 which ran for two years and was one of Cleveland Police's largest ever drugs investigations.
It began by looking into the activities of Morfitt and Garside who were involved in the large scale distribution of cocaine, cannabis and amphetamine.
They were also involved in the production and distribution of amphetamine.
It was discovered they had close links with an organised crime group from Liverpool headed by Ian Stanton and Keith Watson.
Police said the two groups embarked on a joint conspiracy to supply and manufacture drugs on a massive commercial scale for huge financial gain.
Officers made several large seizures of drugs and thousands of pounds in cash during the investigation after intercepting cars travelling between the North West and Hartlepool.
The criminals used sophisticated tactics to try to avoid detection including using hire cars and special encrypted phones bought from Canada.
Prosecutors said at sentencing the seizures were just the tip of the iceberg and the two groups operated a multi million pound business which was responsible for the wholesale distribution of 100’s of kilos of drugs.
The other Hartlepool defendants who were have had confiscation orders made against them are Neal Gutteridge, 33, who benefited by Â£223,452 and was ordered to pay back Â£23,500 available; Mark Williamson, 39, whose benefit was Â£320,789 and had Â£69,140 available; and Darren Crossley, 34, whose benefit figure was Â£120,294 and had Â£294 available.
Richard Ryan, 39, benefited by Â£240,000 and Paul Rudd by Â£1,500 but both had no assets and were ordered to pay nominal Â£1 amounts.