Drugs ring gets more than 60 years in jail

OP Patton....cash seized as part of Operation Patton
OP Patton....cash seized as part of Operation Patton
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A WEARSIDE man is behind bars today for his part in a £55million international drugs ring.

Andrew Yates, described in court as a ‘foot soldier,’ was responsible for moving ‘eye watering’ amounts of cash for a nine-strong gang, which has been jailed for more than 60 years.

Newcastle Crown Court heard Yates, of Fountains Close, Washington, was caught carrying £65,000 when stopped by police near Durham in November 2012.

He was sentenced to two years and eight months yesterday after pleading guilty to money laundering.

Eight others were also sentenced yesterday for their part in what police called the region’s largest-ever drugs seizure.

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.

Judge Penny Moreland told the court that £55m could not be said to represent the full amount and that it could just have been one shipment.

She said: “The operation covered the whole process from sourcing the drugs to packing and distributing them.

“They showed a high degree of professionalism and sophistication.”

The men, led by Michael Watts, 47, from Jarrow, were responsible for bringing in excess of £55m worth of the class B drug amphetamine into the UK.

The drugs were shipped inside furniture which had been taken to Maastricht in Holland. The furniture was then stuffed with drugs before being transported back by unknowing legitimate haulage companies.

The drugs were then stored in warehouses in North Yorkshire, Northampton and Nottingham and distributed in large quantities to Scotland and throughout England.

Ricky Holland, defending Yates, who has no previous convictions, told the court that he came to be involved in the conspiracy because of a series of financial difficulties.

The gang – which had criminal links across the UK and abroad – was snared by the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU), which launched Operation Patton.

Speaking after the case Detective Superintendent Tim Walker said: “This investigation saw a number of key events that led to 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.”

l Head of the crime group Michael Watts, 48, of Bedeburn Road, in Jarrow was jailed for 10 years two months; Neil Hoban, 52 of Casson Way, Stockton, was given eight years five months; David Faulkener, 54, of Belfry Lane, Collington, Northampton, was sentenced to six years; Darren Herbert, 44, of Marshleys Court, Northampton, was sentenced to five years; Michael Li, 48, of Fieldfare Close, Cory, Northamptonshire, was sentenced to eight years four months; David Drew, 48, of Woodside Avenue, Northampton, was sentenced to six years. All pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class B drugs.

Kevin Christopher Murray, 39, of Weaverthorpe Road, Nottingham, 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, Slough was sentenced to three years two months after he 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, Stockton has previously been sentenced to 10 years after pleading guilty to possession with intent to supply.