Sunderland man stashed half a million pounds of drugs behind a piano
Three men involved in a large-scale drugs network have been put behind bars.
Drugs bosses Tony Trott and Tony Ross sat at the top of a hierarchy which oversaw a large scale illegal supply operation and used multiple close contacts to facilitate their illegal activity, a court heard.
Three of their foot soldiers are now behind bars for their involvement in the underground crime ring.
Alan Walton, 50, Kevin Liddle, 47, and Rikki Ward, 29, pleaded guilty to possessing a class A drug with intent to supply and have all been given prison terms.
Cash handlers Harold Trott-Dixon, 63, Lisa Dixon, 42, and Dawn Spurs, 38, walked free despite their involvement in the network.
The court heard on Thursday that the offences happened in 2016.
On November 3, 2016, police officers watched Ward, who was riding a blue scooter, exchange a carrier bag with Walton who was parked in a Nissan Qashqai in a Washington car park.
After following Walton’s car, police officers stopped him and searched his vehicle.
A solid white substance was found in a knotted carrier bag which was later identified to be a quarter of a kilogram of cocaine at a high purity rate of 85 per cent, which prosecution barrister Deborah Smithies said could be sold for Â£28,000, the court heard.
Sentencing, Judge Robert Adams said: “On this day Rikki Ward was acting on behalf of Tony Trott and it (cocaine) was to be given to Alan Walton who was working on behalf of Tony Ross."
Walton, of Buttermere Crescent, Blaydon, was jailed for two years and six months.
Ward, of Chatham Road, Sunderland, was jailed for three years and seven months.
This will run concurrently alongside a separate 15-year custodial sentence for manslaughter after he killed a man after putting a firework through his letterbox.
A 38-month prison sentence was also given to Liddle, of Thorpeness Road, Sunderland.
On November 28, 2016, Liddle had been stopped by police officers while travelling on the A19 in the Northallerton area.
Judge Adams said: “Police officers recovered just over a kilogram of cocaine.
“He was bringing this back from Liverpool on behalf of Tony Trott.”
Ms Smithies had told the court that this was 74% purity and was valued at about Â£100,000.
After his arrest, Liddle’s home was searched where police found half a million pounds worth of amphetamine in 13 blocks totalling 16.1 kilograms in a cardboard box behind a piano in his garage.
A small cannabis farm of nine plants were also discovered in an upstairs bedroom.
Trott-Dixon, Dixon and Spurs avoided going to prison because of the relatively minor roles they played in the operation.
Dawn Spurs counted and packaged Â£29,000 of cash for her partner, Tony Trott.
Spurs, of Ringwood Square, Sunderland, claims she believed the money was a result of car sales and did not know it had been acquired through illicit drug sales.
She pleaded guilty to charges of possession of criminal property and received a prison sentence of 16 weeks suspended for 12 months.
Harold Trott-Dixon, the uncle of Tony Trott, and his wife Lisa Dixon, were attempting to transport the cash which Spurs had counted to an address in Liverpool and admitted possessing criminal property.
Judge Adams said: “Harold Trott-Dixon and Lisa Dixon drove to meet Dawn Spurs to get the cash.
“The intention was clearly to deliver this money to Liverpool but they were stopped by police.
“The vehicle was searched and a child’s rucksack was found with a large bundle of money in a knotted plastic bag.”
Ms Smithies told the court that Dixon was driving the car and Trott-Dixon was in the passenger seat.
Dixon, of Albert Place, Washington, alleged that although she suspected the bag contained money she did not know it was it had been raised through drug sales.
Judge Adams said she had been “exploited and used as a driver to get to Liverpool” and issued her with a 12-month community order and 80 hours of unpaid work.
Trott-Dixon, who the court heard has a lot of previous convictions including burglaries in the 1970s, was given a 45-week suspended sentence for five months.