Drugs gang jailed for more than 100 years

 25/01/2019

​A LONG-RUNNING investigation into organised crime has dealt a major blow to drug dealing in County Durham with 17 people being convicted for their parts in a conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.


Detectives from Durham Constabulary’s Specialist Crime Operations Unit launched the investigation – named Operation Sidra - in October 2014 after receiving intelligence from members of the public about potential drug dealing in their community.


A long and complex investigation followed involving more than 40 officers, including covert surveillance teams, crime analysts and detectives, and identified a number of people who were involved in the supply of Class A drugs into East Durham and beyond.


During the course of the investigation, warrants were executed at properties in South Hetton, Easington Lane, New Herrington, Sunderland and South Shields, resulting in a number of arrests. Seizures of controlled drugs, more than £100,000 in cash and hydraulic presses used to press cocaine into bricks were made.


As a result of continued enquiries, further warrants were executed in 2017 in the Sunderland, Washington and East Durham areas which resulted in more arrests and the seizure of cocaine.


Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Lawrence, who led the investigation, said: “This organised crime gang were involved in bringing huge amounts of Class A drugs into the East Durham area and beyond.


“Through years of hard work and investigation, and with the support of local people who came forward with vital pieces of information, we have been able to disrupt and destroy this particular network who thought they could get away with blighting their communities through their illicit trade.


“We are extremely pleased with the result, which has seen those involved in the conspiracy jailed for more than 100 years in total.


“I hope this sends out a clear message that we will not tolerate criminality of this nature in our force area, and we will relentlessly pursue these people and put them before the courts to make our streets safer.”


Andrew Blake, 41, of Regent Court, South Hetton, was identified as a leading player in the conspiracy.


Blake denied conspiracy to supply cocaine and ecstasy, but was found guilty following an eight-week trial last year. He was jailed for 14 years at Teesside Crown Court.


Six other men who played different parts in the conspiracy denied their involvement, but were found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs following a six-week trial at the end of last year. They appeared at Teesside Crown Court today (January 25) for sentencing. They are:


Robert Anderson, 45, of D’Arcy Court, Sunderland, who supplied high grade cocaine to one of the ringleaders. He was jailed for ten years.


Stuart Gooden, 48, of Ullswater Drive, Washington, was regularly supplied with nine ounce blocks of cocaine by the ringleaders. He was jailed for ten years.


Andrew Belford, 33, of Londonderry Street, Sunderland, and Darren McBride, 34, of Pauls Green, Hetton-le-Hole, were supplied with cocaine for onward commercial supply. They were sentenced to seven years and ten years in prison, respectively.


Paul Casey, 45, of North View, Sunderland, was supplied with cocaine for onward supply to his own customer base. He was jailed for seven years.


Ryan Johnson, 26, of The Tilery, Shotton Colliery, supplied cocaine to one of the ringleaders and to others. He was also sentenced to seven years in prison.


A seventh man, Dean Smart, 29, of Foxlair Close, Sunderland, was supplied with cocaine for onward supply to his own customer base. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and was jailed for four-and-a-half years.


Their sentences come as nine others were convicted for their part in the conspiracy last year, four of which denied their involvement but were found guilty following a trial. They were:


Christian Winter, 50, of Osborne Avenue, South Shields, who was jailed for 12 years for conspiracy to supply cocaine.


David Murphy, 38, of Avonmouth Road, Sunderland, who was jailed for ten years for conspiracy to supply cocaine.


Ian Ramshaw, 33, of Cambridge Road, Sunderland, was jailed for five years for conspiracy to supply cocaine and ecstasy.


Thomas Blake, 77, of Jubilee Square, South Hetton, who was handed an 18 month prison sentence, suspended for two years for money laundering.


Three men and a woman who were involved in the scheme pleaded guilty to a number of offences prior to the trial. They are:


James Murphy, 39, of Fletcher Crescent, New Herrington. He was sentenced to six years for conspiracy to supply cocaine and Class B drugs.


Victoria Harding, 32, of Fletcher Crescent, New Herrington. She was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for conspiracy to supply cocaine.


Calvin Brad Owens, 26, of The Crescent, Houghton-le-Spring. He was handed a two year prison sentence, suspended for two years for conspiracy to supply cocaine and Class B drugs. 


Christopher Binks, 32, of Station Avenue, Fencehouses, Houghton-le-Spring. He was given a three-and-a-half year prison sentence, suspended for two years for conspiracy to supply to Class A drugs.


A 24-year-old man was also given a conditional discharge.


Anyone with any information about drug dealing and crime in their area should call Durham Constabulary on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.