County lines drug gang locked up for more than 36 years
Five members of an organised crime group operating in Grimsby have been jailed for a combined total of 36 years and 7 months today (29 June 2020) following a lengthy and complex investigation into county lines drug supply and dealing.
The ringleaders behind the drugs operation were based in Merseyside and Cheshire, transporting £1.38 million of heroin and crack cocaine into Grimsby over an 18-month period, and then using local people as well as some from outside the Force area to sell the drugs.
Detective Inspector Phil Booker leading the investigation said: “We have worked very closely with Merseyside and Cheshire Police, as well as the Regional Organised Crime Unit and the National Crime Agency, to thoroughly and comprehensively carry out this investigation, which has culminated in the success we have seen today at court.
“Towards the latter end of 2017, an arrest was made for an unrelated burglary in the Merseyside area, and the offender’s mobile phone was seized and digitally and forensically examined, with messages indicating he was involved in the supply of class A drugs.
“From this time, both overt and covert action has taken place with extensive enquiries carried out as part of the investigation, which ultimately led to the simultaneous execution of three warrants on Thursday, 21 March last year in Grimsby, Liverpool and Warrington, which resulted in the arrests of the ringleaders.”
Arrested in Warrington, Scott Hendry, 27, of Longshaw Street, controlled the local, and non-local, drug runners in Grimsby.
Arrested in Grimsby on Catherine Street, but from Liverpool, Andres Vassou, 30, of Queens Drive, Stoneycroft, was the transportation to resupply the drugs, travelling between Liverpool and Grimsby by car and train.
Both were charged with two counts each of conspiracy to supply class A drugs – one for heroin and one for crack cocaine – between September 2017 and March 2019.
Hendry entered a not guilty plea to the charges however a jury found him guilty of both offences following a week-long trial at Sheffield Crown Court that concluded in March 2020. He was sentenced to 14-years in prison.
Vassou pleaded guilty to the charges at an earlier court hearing and was sentenced eight years in prison.
Further arrests were made over the coming months, as DI Booker explains: “Through extensive investigations and enquiries, information from the public and realms of data examined and interpreted, we were able to build up a very clear picture as to who else was involved and identify a number of other individuals.
In the Merseyside force area, Lee Healey, also known as Lee Blackburn, 33, of Centenary Close, Liverpool, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs, one for heroin and one for crack cocaine, between September 2017 and March 2019 and was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Reece Navarro (pictured above), 20, of Hillside Road, Liverpool, and Jamie Shaw, also known as Jamie Blythe, 23, of Pine Road, Runcorn, in the Cheshire force area, also pleaded guilty to the same offences. Navarro was sentenced to 32 months in prison and Shaw sentenced to 35 months.
DI Booker added: “We know the effect that drugs and the associated crime and antisocial behaviour that comes with it has on our communities. It brings misery to residents in the areas these groups think they can set up business and it’s an issue we take incredibly seriously.
“We will not tolerate any type of organised crime and we work very closely with other Forces and organisations to build intelligence as to where these groups are operating, and more often than not exploiting children and vulnerable people in order to line their own pockets.
“The result today should send out a very clear message to anyone who is involved in the supply of drugs and dealing that we will not stop in our efforts to dismantle your groups and disrupt your criminality and bring you before the courts.
“I would always encourage the public to please, continue telling us about any type of drug-related crime or concerns in your area, or to make contact with Crimestoppers completely anonymously on 0800 555111. With your help, we can collate the intelligence we need to continue to target those behind it and take action against them.
“While you might not see the results straight away, take this case as an example and feel rest assured that the information you provide us is vital in piecing together successful operations, that result in a number of people being sent to prison and what really makes a difference in the long-term.”