ELEVEN people have been sentenced to more than 53 years for being part of a conspiracy to supply drugs in Worcester, including their ringleader who used threats of violence and intimidation to run his operation, even while in prison.
It is the result of a year-long investigation by West Mercia Police into the organised crime group, who were based mainly in Worcester but had contacts across the country.
The operation by the force’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit (Socu) targeted a group believed to have been active since 2007 in the widespread dealing of Class A drugs crack cocaine and heroin into Worcestershire, as well as amphetamines and cannabis.
The Socu team was able to present evidence that the group controlled drug-dealing houses that were each visited by users hundreds of times a week each the estimated value of the criminal enterprise was in excess of £200 000.
This means that in the last 18 months, more than 53 people have been convicted for drug dealing offences due to Socu investigations.
The latest group to be convicted was led by Craig Wright, aged 29, who originates from Liverpool and split his time between Widnes and Worcestershire. During the investigation he was serving a five-year prison sentence for possessing a shotgun with ammunition after he was convicted at Liverpool Crown Court in March 2009.
Wright was released on license in May 2011 and his drug dealing activity escalated, but in November 2011 he was returned to prison for intentionally ramming a police car in an attempt to escape arrest.
Socu investigated how, despite being in prison, he used illegally held mobile phones to continue to control his drugs supply on the streets of Worcester.
Eleven sentenced to more than 50 years
In March 2013, following a year-long covert operation, Wright and 10 other people were arrested and charged with conspiracy to supply Class A and Class B drugs.
After he pleaded guilty to the charges of conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin as well as money laundering on 7 June 2013, Wright appeared at Birmingham Crown Court today and was sentenced to 13 years; this was reduced by a third to eight years and eight months because he pleaded guilty.
Detective Sergeant Tony Garner from Socu said: “This is the third large anti-drug dealing operation we have conducted in Worcester that has been successful at court recently. It means that since September 2012, Socu’s efforts have seen 53 people convicted for dealing drugs in the city.
“Craig Wright cultivated a reputation for violence and intimidation and used this to facilitate and control his drug dealing.
“He became adept at concealing and using illegally held mobile phones within prison to threaten, intimidate and exploit his contacts on the outside to control his supply. He would use vulnerable drug users and juveniles outside the prison as expendable front men for his dealing.
“Phone calls recorded from prison and text messages recovered showed Wright threatening a whole range of violent acts including threats to hunt people down, slash faces, carve people up, spray houses with bullets and burn down houses.
“Often the threat would be made against people’s family members to increase the impact. He boasted that he ‘terrorised’ Worcester and these tactics meant Wright was able to run his drug dealing enterprise so successfully over the last five years even while imprisoned.
“His intimidation meant witnesses were too fearful to give evidence against him and it therefore needed a complex and lengthy covert investigation.
“We patiently pieced together enough evidence to paint a complete picture of his criminal enterprise so much so he pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity.
“We have now put an end to this activity and disrupted a very significant organised crime group who were supplying a large amount of the Class A drugs circulating in Worcestershire.”
Also sentenced were:
– Qamar ‘Doc’ Zaman, aged 45, of Shirley Road, Hall Green, Birmingham, was imprisoned for eight years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin. He was also a Birmingham-based wholesale drug dealer who sold large quantities of drugs to Wright and his dealers.
– Sanchez Hamilton, aged 24, of no fixed abode and previously from Ipswich, was imprisoned for seven years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin. He met Wright in prison and became one of his most trusted drug dealers. After his release, Wright placed Hamilton in the Worcester area to oversee his drug dealing operation.
– Robert Tallis, aged 25, of no fixed abode and previously from Coventry, was imprisoned for six years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin. It is believed Tallis also met Wright in prison and after release he oversaw drug deals from Michael O’Dell’s property in Teme Road and Nicholas Clarke’s in Windsor Avenue.
– Calville Wiggins, aged 57, of Headingly Road, Birmingham, was imprisoned for six years for pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine as well as possession of counterfeit currency with intent. Wiggins was a Birmingham-based ‘wholesale’ drug dealer from whom Wright sourced his drugs. The investigation uncovered evidence of Wright’s dealers visiting Wiggins to make purchases of crack. When an address used by Wiggins was searched by officers, they recovered thirty two (32) counterfeit £20 notes.
– Tina Brophy, aged 40, of Carlisle Road, Worcester, was imprisoned for five years for conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin. She worked as a drugs runner for Wright, dealing to users in Worcester and visiting Zaman and Rashid to purchase drugs. She was found guilty after a trial at Birmingham Crown Court in July 2013.
– Abdul Rashid, aged 33, of Kitsland Road, Birmingham, was imprisoned for four years and four months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin. He worked as a drug runner and front man for Qamar Zaman.
– Aiden Collins, aged 24, of Peterhouse Close, Ipswich, was imprisoned for two years and eight months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine, heroin and cannabis. He worked as a drug runner for Hamilton and Wright.
– Michael O’Dell, aged 40 and previously of Teme Road, Worcester, was imprisoned for one year and eight months years after pleading guilty to allowing his premises to used for drugs supply. He was a drug user who let Wright’s dealers base themselves at his flat at 42A Teme Road, Worcester to deal drugs despite repeated warrants, arrests and seizures. O’Dell allowed other dealers to also use his flat and it was outside number 42A that Adrian Locke was stabbed to death by Rafeal Marks and Micah Golding in January 2013.
– Chantelle MacDowell, aged 27 of Redbourne Avenue, Liverpool, was given a sentence of two years and three months suspended for two years and 150 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to money laundering. She was Wright’s partner and evidence showed her involvement in laundering £54,000 thought to be the proceeds of drug deals through her personal bank account. These were deposited over the count at bank branches in Worcester.
– Nicholas Clarke, aged 35 of Windsor Avenue, Worcester, was give a two years sentence suspended for two years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin. Clarke was also a drug user who allowed Wright’s drug dealing enterprise to be run from his house in Windsor Avenue. Wright’s dealers used Clarke’s house as a place to prepare, store and supply drugs from while he got involved in the preparation and selling of drugs himself. He contacted the police when he felt the activities at his flat were getting out of control.