A DESPERATE dad was blackmailed into becoming a drug dealer when loan sharks demanded £27,000 after he borrowed just £2,000.
Ryan Craggs was sent torture threats, warned that his wife would have acid thrown in her face, while his son was actually attacked.
During the terror campaign, where the lenders demanded more and more money, the family’s horse had its throat cut.
Loan sharks would turn up and take vehicles belonging to the family, which they said would reduce but still not settle the enormous debt.
Newcastle Crown Court heard, with the interest rate rising every day, Craggs, of Avon Crescent, Fence Houses, agreed to sell drugs in return for the debt being wiped out.
The 36-year-old was caught by the police in August last year with 48 wraps of crack cocaine hidden behind the ashtray compartment in his car while driving along Front Street in Fence Houses.
He confessed he had been selling £20 deals to customers for about three weeks.
Craggs pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply and would usually have faced years behind bars.
But Judge Paul Sloan QC told him: “Unusually, and I state this in open court, there is independent evidence to corroborate much of what is said. This is clearly an unusual case.”
The judge sentenced him to 16 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with supervision and 120 hours’ unpaid work.
The judge told Craggs: “I accept the circumstances and that you are thoroughly ashamed of your involvement.
“Unusually, most of your basis of plea was not disputed.”
The court heard Craggs had borrowed £2,000 at a time when he was unemployed and needed help to support his family.
He paid back £3,200 after being forced to sell his quad bike, but was told he still needed to pay more.
The situation turned nasty when he was unable to meet the payment demands.
Reading from his basis of plea, prosecutor Bridie Smurthwaite said: “Threats were made to his daughter’s horse, which had its throat cut.
“There was also threats to his wife’s horse and his mother’s horse.
“A quad bike was taken and he was told one thousand pounds would be deducted from what he owed for that. He was also told if he didn’t get the money, his son would ‘get it’.
“His son was attacked, pulled off his scooter, his helmet pulled off and assaulted.
“At one point, he was told he owed £27,000. He was then told if he didn’t pay the money back, he would have to work for the lender.”
The court heard Craggs was pressured to work as a driver for the criminal gang in the summer of last year.
Miss Smurthwaite added: “He did so because of what had previously happened.
“He and his wife were repeatedly subjected to threats to torture them, threatened there would be acid poured in his wife’s face.”
The court heard the lenders took Mrs Craggs’s car from her, which they said would reduce the mounting debt.
The worried dad agreed to the demands he should start dealing in the hope that he could finally free himself from the lenders.
He told detectives he had been selling £20 deals and had made about £10,000 for the lenders in the three weeks he was dealing.
Miss Smurthwaite said: “He would not have supplied drugs but for the threats that were made and the intimidation he was subjected to.”