Drug dealers who trafficked £1.3 million of cocaine between Northampton and Hampshire have been jailed for a combined total of more than 100 years.
Joseph O’Neill, who owns Ice Lounge in Northampton, has been jailed for 20 years after he was convicted of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs following a nine-week trial at Leicester Crown Court in October and November.
The court heard that O’Neill was the head of a criminal gang in Northamptonshire that sourced an estimated 28kg of high purity cocaine from Cambridgeshire-based criminals that was then sold to an organised crime group on the south coast.
O’Neill’s second in command, Sean Byrne, aged 48, of Purser Road, Abington, Northampton, has been jailed for 15 years.
Micah Walfall, aged 29, previously of West Cotton Close, Northampton and John Monteith, aged 27, of Stockholm Close, Corby, have both been sentenced to ten years in prison after they admitted helping O’Neill to distribute the drugs.
Other dealers from Northamptonshire sentenced included Michael Wilson, aged 29, previously of Cricketers Green, Weldon, who was given a seven-and-a-half year sentence and Adrian Dowling, aged 48, of High Street, Pitsford, who was sentenced to six years, plus one to year to run consecutively after pleading guilty to producing fraudulent documentation.
Christopher Jones, aged 26, of Park Road, Hanslope, Milton Keynes, had also admitted one count each of supplying ecstasy, supplying cocaine and supplying cannabis in addition to the cocaine supply conspiracy. He was sentenced to five years.
The court heard that O’Neill’s network of couriers are believed to have made 158 trips to Southampton to deliver the drugs over a two-year period.
Three police forces initially launched separate investigations into the activity before the probes were linked by Northamptonshire Police and passed to the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, to lead under the operational name of Vanguard.
About 50 search warrants were executed and 40 people arrested during enforcement operations in 2012. Of the 40 arrested, 16 would go on to plead guilty to charges of conspiring to supply class A drugs.
Another six people initially denied the offence, but two of them changed their plea to guilty before the trial began, and a third later admitted to being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs.
Paul Wesley, aged 38, of Foxton, Cambridgeshire was also convicted of a charge of conspiracy to supply class A drugs and was described as the head of the criminal gang in Cambridge, which passed the drugs on to O’Neill’s gang in Northampton.
Wesley was jailed for 18 years and Cyrus Kazak, aged 49, of Woodpecker Way, Waterbeach, who was also instrumental in providing the high-purity cocaine to O’Neill’s group, was jailed for 12-and-a-half years.
O’Neill, aged 36, of Jacques Road, Burton Latimer, was decribed in court as someone who “posed as a legitimate businessman using funds from his involvement in the supply of Class A drugs.”
Senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Mark Brayfield, said: “This is, so far, a very satisfying outcome to a very long and complex investigation.
“I’m very grateful not only to my team but also to our colleagues in other forces and the Crown Prosecution Service, Complex Case Unit who ensured that we not only undertook successful enforcement operations, but gathered, presented and prepared substantial evidential material that subsequently resulted in the arrest, charge and conviction of the suspects.
“This case demonstrates that determined criminals will find markets for drugs wherever they can and will travel long distances to source and distribute drugs if they have to.
“Our job is to protect the public by identifying this activity and the offenders and then take action to gather evidence, make arrests and bring a strong case to court. We have to bide our time on occasion, but days like today make it all worthwhile and some very significant criminals from three different organised crime groups, and parts of England are now serving lengthy prison sentences as a result.”