More than 50 years for Gloucester organised crime group

07/06/2012

Fifteen people have today been sentenced to a total of more than 50 years in prison following a year long investigation into the supply of Class A drugs.

The investigation, code-named Operation Wildfire resulted in more than ten kilos of cocaine and more than £100,000 in cash being seized. The police also seized 50 kilos of cutting agents commonly used by drug dealers to cut with cocaine to reduce its purity and increase potential profit. The drugs and mixing agents have a combined street value estimated to be in the region of 2.5 million pounds.

The case was handled by Zephyr, the South West's regional serious and organised crime team. the team consists of specialist officers from five police forces as well as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and partners from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and United Kingdom Borders Agency (UKBA).

CPS Crown Advocate Janine Wood said: "This operation has had a profound impact on the supply of cocaine throughout Gloucestershire. The exceptionally high purity level of the cocaine seized was such that if it had been cut and supplied throughout the county, the defendants would have become as wealthy as lottery winners at the cost of the addiction of others.

"The success of this operation shows that, working with local police forces and the CPS, Zephyr tackles serious organised crime in the South West with great results."

Operation Wildfire began in March 2011 and was focused on a Gloucester based organised crime group responsible for the wholesale distribution of cocaine into the region.

In excess of 30 premises were searched during the investigation.

The following eleven men were sentenced at Bristol Crown court today for their involvement in these offences.

Craig King (aged 36 and from Tuffley Avenue, Gloucester), Jamie Coltman (aged 37 and from Shurdington), Roland Kuka (aged 28 and from Russet Close, Gloucester), Ryan Jarrett (aged 30 and from Worcester) and Anthony Campbell (aged 30 and from Hazelton Close, Gloucester) were all charged and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine. Kuka and Coltman also pleaded guilty to money laundering.

Also sentenced today at Bristol Crown Court for conspiracy to supply cocaine were Matthew Howe (aged 33 and from Locking Drive, Gloucester), Simon Yates (aged 48 and from Bodiam Avenue, Gloucester), Lirim Kastrati (aged 25 from Albania), Stuart Bace (aged 35 and from Kitchener Avenue, Gloucester), Aaron Bace (aged 22 and from Bisely Road, Gloucester) and Neil Philips (aged 32 and from Redstart Way, Gloucester).

Craig King was sentenced to ten years, Neil Phillips was sentenced to seven years and four months and Stuart Bace was sentenced to four years eight months. Jamie Coltman was sentenced to five years six months and Simon Yates was sentenced to three years and four months.

Mario Mazzotta (aged 31 from Swindon) is already serving a five year sentence for possession with intent to supply heroin and cocaine and possession of a firearm in connection with this investigation.

Kimberley Lamb (aged 28 and from Swindon) was also charged with possession with intent to supply heroin and cocaine and was also handed a five year prison term.

Similarly David Moore (aged 42 and from Hempsted, Gloucester) was charged with possession with intent to supply cocaine and was sentenced to five and a half years. Peter Heritage (aged 51) also pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply cocaine.

Two of the sentences handed out today include Serious Crime Prevention Orders (SCPO) which were introduced by the Serious Crime Act 2007.

For an Order to be made the court must be satisfied of two things. Firstly, that a person has been convicted of a serious offence. Secondly, that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the Order would protect the public by preventing, restricting or disrupting involvement in serious crime by the person in England and Wales.

A key feature is the fact that there is a real risk that the individual in question is likely to be involved in further criminal behaviour, in other words, they are a 'career criminal'.

If an order is broken the offender risks serving extra time in prison or facing a fine.

In sentencing the offenders Judge Jamie Tabor said: "Cocaine is a dangerous Class A drug which can cause addiction as we have seen in this case. The distribution of cocaine has created an international criminal network.

"Every time a person decides to snort cocaine in the UK they are adding to the trade in some way and causing harm here and in other countries.

"Drug dealing can be highly lucrative and in times of recession it can appear to be easy money. There is no tax to pay on ill gotten gains. This case demonstrates how people so inclined can get involved.

"But all those in the dock today are grown men, worldly wise and know what the consequences of their actions are. If you run up a drug debt you should be aware of what the consequences are likely to be."

Zephyr will also now look to strip these criminals of their assets and the money they made through crime utilising the powers available under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Detective Inspector Craig Holden from Zephyr who led Operation Wildfire said: "This investigation goes to show that our work does not stop at county borders. We will continue to target criminals who are living in, or causing fear or harm to communities across the South West.

"This result would not have been possible without the support of members of the public and the Gloucestershire neighbourhood policing teams who helped us to build our investigation.

"These terms of imprisonment should go to show that Zephyr will continue to target drug dealers who believe their lavish lifestyles funded from crime will go un-noticed. We will look to cut off the snakes head so to speak and target those further up the chain responsible for causing harm to our communities. 

"While people may not always see us and a lot of work we do is covert we will also use high visibility policing through local teams to offer reassurance to local residents. And if people have any concerns about serious crime in their area they can contact Zephyr through our website or by calling their local team on 101.

"People should feel confident that this information will get to us and we will take the appropriate action."

Chief Inspector Richard Burge from Gloucestershire Police said: "This result has had a significant positive impact on our communities. A substantial amount of harmful drugs have been prevented from reaching our streets and some of the most vulnerable members of society. This should also have a direct impact on reducing associated crime in the area. We will continue to work closely with Zephyr to target serious and organised crime."