Six men who were involved in a multi-million pound drugs operation based in Northamptonshire appeared in court yesterday.
Nicholas Riviere, who the Crown Prosection Service said led the “unique and sophisticated” operation, appeared alongside Fred Carvalho, Marco Varone, Nicholas Riviere, Stuart Hart, Nathan Edghill and Nicholas Ovens.
The men were arrested after several months of police surveillance between July 2013 and June 2014 monitored them buying, preparing and selling wholesale quantities of heroin and cocaine in connection with gangs in Leicestershire, High Wycombe, London and Albania.
Police seized drugs from their Wellingborough ‘safe house’, which, the CPS said, had a potential street value of up to £10.5 million. The pure class A drugs, and the chemicals to cut them with, were found stuffed inside ‘Tumbletots’ bags and Spiderman pillowcases.
Adrian Langdale, prosecuting, said: “This was just a snapshot in time of the business they were running on one particular day. They were involved in the wholesale and retail of the drugs on a nearly industrial scale in a fine-tuned operation.”
Mr Langdale spent several hours in Northampton Crown Court yesterday recounting evidence of the group’s actions over the past year, including “security measures” that the leaders put in place, such as regularly changing phones.
Former teeth-whitening business-owner Riviere, aged 36, was said to be the leader of the group with Zachariah Lovell, of Mosel Close in Wellingborough, acting as his “lieutenant”. The other defendants - all aged in their 30s and from addresses in Wellingborough and London - had roles in delivering and preparing drugs.
Mr Langdale said: “The group was extremely security conscious. They would regularly drop dirty phones - phones they had used for a period of time - and buy new ones. They would conduct their meetings in public places, such as cafes or gyms. It was a unique and sophisticated operation.”
The court heard that the group would also use cars run by Hart’s taxi business though, Mr Langdale said, Hart would have had “very little time to conduct legitimate taxi business.”
While acting as regular drugs suppliers for gangs in High Wycombe and Leicester, as well as Northampton and Wellingborough, in March the group also began importing pure drugs from Albania in “regular multi-kilo deliveries.”
The Albanian suppliers, however, were apprehended by the Metropolitan Police when they were caught carrying 40 kg of pure cocaine and eight of heroin. It was after this, the court heard, that Riviere began to organise London-based links.
The first group member to be arrested was Hart at a service station on the A45 on June 3, 2014. Police arrested the remaining members at various addresses in possession of drugs. Riviere and Lovell were arrested on June 28 while at a hotel as part of, what Mr Langdale described as their “luxurious lifestyle”, “sloshing around in cash.”
They all pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to supply drugs but made few comments during police interviews.