FOUR men have been jailed after police smashed a £1.3m cocaine ring destined to flood the streets of Hartlepool.
Hartlepool men Alan Forcer, Lee Ryan and Robert Elsdon had been under police surveillance in the Rift House area of town along with Mark Devine, from Liverpool.
Teesside Crown Court heard that ringleader Forcer, 33, lived a lavish lifestyle on the back of the drug money while claiming benefits.
Devine, 47, acted as a courier to bring the two kilos of “extremely pure” cocaine from Merseyside on August 8, but prior to his arrival in Hartlepool police recorded a number of movements by the other three defendants which suggested a deal was taking place.
After the drugs were handed over, police arrested 43-year-old Elsdon first at 11.50am in his flat and recovered a 1kg block of cocaine and other drugs equipment.
They then burst into Forcer’s Southbrooke Avenue home and arrested gang leaders Forcer and Ryan.
The court heard that during the raid, Forcer handed over two children’s chocolate eggs filled with cocaine and ecstacy which he said he would have concealed within his body before flying to Ibiza.
At 12.10pm, Devine was arrested in Marton Road, in Middlebrough, and officers found another 1kg block of cocaine and £45,000 cash in the footwell of the van.
Prosecutor Adrian Dent said the Class A drug found in Elsdon’s flat had a wholesale value of £85,656, but if sold on the streets would be worth £685,248.
The second kilo found in the van had a wholesale worth of £87,880 and a street value of £702,960.
Mr Dent told the court that telephone records showed Forcer and Ryan, 29, of Calder Grove, have “drug contacts in Liverpool where the drug came from”.
He said: “This was a well-oiled, carefully organised and carefully orchestrated operation supplying Class A drugs from the North-West to the North-East.”
All four pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to supply cocaine.
Forcer and Ryan were described as the ringleaders of the operation, and were locked up for seven years and four months by Mrs Recorder Sandra Knapton.
Elsdon, of Chesterton Road, and devine, of Walmer Road in Liverpool, were each given five years.
Former soldier Forcer has no previous convictions but was booted out of the Army after serving in Kosovo for taking cocaine.
His barrister Mr Kennedy said: “He has a wife and two children aged seven and three, and set up his own landscaping business three years ago.
“He became involved in the conspiracy for access to cocaine. It’s become the blight of his life.”
Mr Farrell, mitigating for former cable puller and motor trader Ryan, said: “Prior to his remand in custody he saw his daughter on a very frequent basis. That’s now stopped and it’s causing a great deal of anguish.”
Ian Mullarkey, mitigating on behalf of unemployed Elsdon, who has been a volunteer coach at Hartlepool Catholic Boxing Club for 24 years, said his client had an alcohol problem and got into the gang to repay a debt.
Barrister Caroline Haughey for Devine said he got involved to try to pay off a £2,500 debt belonging to his son.