A woman is behind bars after being jailed for her role in a major drug ring.
Joanne Wilson, 29, of Everest Grove, West Boldon, was jailed for two-and-a-half years after admitting conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
She was part of a six-strong gang who were jailed for a total of 30 years at Tesside Crown Court after police smashed a heroin dealing ring.
The court heard the drugs were brought to the north east from Merseyside for onward distribution to Teesside.
Police estimate the gang made hundreds of thousands of pounds from their operation and the court heard that, when Wilson was arrested driving a Mercedes car, she was wearing a Rolex watch which had been valued at £11,000.
Martin Towers, prosecuting, told the court Wilson was the personal assistant and girlfriend of the main conspirator Andy Bennett, from Stockton.
He added: “Wilson arranged for an address linked to her to be used as a production facility where the drugs were cut and the packages remade using hydraulic presses.”
The court heard 2.24kg of heroin with a street value of about £246,000 was found in Craig Thompson’s house. He later said his biggest consignment was between 10kg and 15kg. Duncan McReddy, for Wilson, said: “She is from a law-abiding family, and is finding separation from her nine-year-old son very difficult.
“She has been the subject of two violent relationships in the past.
“Mr Bennett seemed to her to be a kind and decent man who was making a good living from property and buying and selling cars.
“Ms Wilson did not realise at first there was anything dodgy about him, although she accepts there came a time when she did realise where the money was coming from.”
Judge Peter Armstrong said: “This was a serious conspiracy. Those who assist dealers by warehousing drugs, and by running errands, play an important role because they help those doing the dealing avoid detection. Punishment must follow.”
Andy Bennett, 25, of Benson Street, Stockton was jailed for eight years; Sam Dowson, 24, of Ingleton Road, Stockton, was jailed for six years; Daniel Crone, 30, of Brook Cottages, Consett, was jailed for five years; and Craig Thompson, 31, of Hexham Avenue, Hebburn, was jailed for five years after admitting conspiracy to supply. Haytham Baker, 22, of Saltney, Cheshire, was jailed for three-and-a-half years after a trail.
Hearings later this year will determine if any of the gang has cash or assets which can be seized as the proceeds of crime.
All defendants were convicted of conspiracy to supply class A drugs between February and July, last year.