NINE men have been jailed for their part in an international drug ring that saw drugs worth £55m seized – the region’s largest ever drugs seizure.
In 2012, the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) launched Operation Patton – an investigation into the large scale distribution and supply of Class B drugs by an organised crime gang operating in the north east. The group had criminal links across the UK and abroad.
As part of the investigation 30 kilos of heroin and 408 kilos of amphetamine were seized from a storage unit in North Yorkshire and approximately half a million pounds in cash was recovered.
Among those jailed today was Andrew Yates, 28 of Fountains Close, Washington was sentenced to 2 years 8 months.
Head of the crime group Michael Watts, 48, of Bedeburn Road, in Jarrow was jailed for 10 years 2 months.
His right hand man Neil Hoban, 52 of Casson Way, in Stockton was given 8 years 5 months.
David Faulkener, 54, of Belfry Lane in Collington (Northampton) was sentenced to 6 years.
Darren Herbert, 44, of Marshleys Court, Northampton was sentenced to 5 years.
Michael Li, 48, of Fieldfare Close, Cory, Northamptonshire was sentenced to 8 years 4 months.
David Drew, 48 of Woodside Avenue in Northampton, was sentenced to 6 years.
All pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class B drugs.
Kevin Christopher Murray, 39, of Weaverthorpe Road in Nottingham, who also played a key role, was sentenced to 11 years.
He was found guilty at Newcastle Crown Court for conspiracy to supply Class B drugs.
Abdur Rahman Kahn, 38, of Balmoral Close, in Slough was sentenced to 3 years 2 months.
Both pleaded guilty to money laundering.
Aaron Nesbitt, 28, of Manor Way, in Stillington, has previously been sentenced to 14-years and Kirk Anderson, 37, of Etherley Walk, in Stockton has previously been sentenced to ten years after pleading guilty to possession with intent to supply.
Detective Superintendent Tim Walker said: “Operation Patton was a North East Special Operations Unit launched to disrupt the activity of an organised crime group operating not just in the North East but throughout the country and abroad.
“More than £50m worth of drugs were seized from a storage unit in North Yorkshire which were clearly destined for distribution in communities not just across the north east but farther afield, not only that a substantial amount of cash was found stored in holdalls when a car was stopped and searched.
“This group were responsible for importing drugs from Europe, under the guise of transporting furniture - duping legitimate removal companies, who were unaware of their illegal activities, to import their drugs. These were then transported to a storage facility in Nottingham before being taken to a storage facility in North Yorkshire.
“This investigation saw a number of key events that led to today’s sentences, people in this crime group have travelled throughout the country and abroad to undertake their criminal activities, not only has this investigation seen a huge amount of drugs taken out of supply but a crime group has been disrupted and those involved now jailed.”
The NERSOU sees specialist staff from the region’s three forces - Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland - work together to protect communities from organised crime.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird speaking on behalf of the region’s commissioners said: “Those who deal in illegal drugs are causing real problems for families as well as the wider community.
“This latest operation carried out by NERSOU is the culmination of officers working together across several forces to gather intelligence and take action against offenders.
“It sends a clear message that effective policing continues across regional boundaries, giving criminals literally no place to hide.”
Operation Patton also saw NERSOU work with the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU).