A DRUGS boss at the head of a gang that flooded the streets with cocaine has been put behind bars for more than six years.
Steven Ellis used couriers and street dealers to transport batches of the Class A drug from Middlesbrough so it could be sold in Sunderland.
The 42-year-old was arrested after half a kilo of high-grade cocaine, packaged into a Bargain Booze carrier bag, was intercepted by police while being transported en route to Wearside.
Ellis, who was on a suspended sentence for money laundering at the time after £50,000 in cash was found stashed in his cooker, admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine between April and August last year.
At Newcastle Crown Court Judge John Evans jailed him for six years and three months.
The judge told him: “You embarked upon this conspiracy within a matter of weeks of having appeared at the crown court and being given a suspended sentence of imprisonment.”
Judge Evans said the drug dealing was an “extremely serious and sophisticated crime” and added: “The court has to impose a significant sentence.”
Prosecutor Robert Adams told the court others involved in the conspiracy, including the Teesside faction, have admitted their guilt but are yet to be sentenced by the courts.
Mr Adams said: “Steven Ellis was the head of this particular group. The conspiracy involved movement of cocaine from Middlesbrough to Sunderland.
“He kept his distance from the movement and distribution of cocaine, relying on others, who it would be fair to describe as couriers and those concerned in the delivery and supply of the drug at street level. The Crown’s case is this was all on behalf of Steven Ellis.”
The court heard the gang used a Peugeot 206 car which had a “secret compartment” to stash drugs and money.
The cocaine seized in the Booze Buster bag was 78 per cent pure and would have been heavily diluted before it was sold on the streets.
Ellis, of Mulberry, Coxhoe, County Durham, was linked to the gang by telephone records and surveillance logs.
Sailesh Mehta, defending, said Ellis was “realistic” about the length of sentence he would receive when he admitted his involvement.
Mr Mehta said rather than playing a “leading role” in the conspiracy, Ellis’s involvement was better described as being a “significant role”.