Seven members of an organised crime group based in Warwickshire and Spain has been sentenced to a total of nearly 39 years in prison for importing tonnes of illegal drugs into the UK from the continent.
At Birmingham Crown Court, they were sentenced for conspiracy to import Class A and Class B drugs and supply Class B drugs.
This means a total of 30 people have been jailed in a six-year investigation thought to be Warwickshire Police’s largest and longest ever investigation.
In July 2007 the Serious & Organised Crime Unit (Socu) at Warwickshire Police launched an investigation into the importation of cannabis resin and cocaine from Spain and Holland into Warwickshire where it was distributed across the UK.
The investigation was centred on the criminal activities of Terry Conlon, who was living in a luxury barn conversion in Copston Magna, near Wolvey, Warwickshire, and Troy Stanton, who was living in a villa in the Alicante area of Spain.
Conlon was identified as the head of an organised crime group and Stanton as his partner. Conlon controlled the importation of drugs into the UK whilst Stanton was responsible for the crime group’s operations in Spain.
In 2008 police made a number of large seizures of cannabis resin. On 15 July, 95kg of cannabis resin was recovered in Hull following a surveillance operation. Intelligence from this operation led officers to a farm in Wolvey where they executed a warrant and found more than three tonnes of resin in Hessian bags marked with a fish symbol.
On 30 July, 82kg of resin was recovered following a surveillance operation of a pub car park in Coventry. The drugs had been driven to Coventry from Kent and at the handover in Coventry all those involved were arrested.
Even though these seizures were linked by Socu, they needed to gather further evidence to prove they were organised by Conlon and Stanton.
In 2010 Socu contacted the Spanish authorities and, following extensive liaison, information they had from their own separate investigations into drug shipments being made between Spain, Morocco and the UK was passed to Socu.
It also contained evidence of cocaine trafficking and importation into the UK by associates of Conlon and Stanton.
Following painstaking and thorough examination of the intelligence, Socu were able to prove the men sentenced today were linked to the drug seizures from July 2008. In June 2013, Warwickshire Police, assisted by West Mercia Police and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, executed warrants in Warwickshire, West Midlands, Kent, Surrey and Sussex and the men were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to import and supply controlled drugs.
Conlon and Stanton pleaded guilty to all charges against them while other defendants pleaded guilty to some and not guilty to others, so they went trial. The result for each defendant was:
Terry Conlon, aged 39, of Banbury Road, Bishops Tachbrook, Warwickshire, was sentenced to eight years six months imprisonment. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import a Class B drug (cannabis) and conspiracy to supply a Class B drug (cannabis).
Bryn Clinton, aged 45, of Banbury Road, Bishops Tachbrook, Warwickshire, was sentenced to five years four months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to import cannabis and conspiracy to supply cannabis.
Harry Card, aged 31, of Hadlow Road, Tonbridge, Kent, was sentenced to four years four months after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cannabis. He was found not guilty of two counts of conspiracy to import cocaine.
Michael Wheaton, aged 31, of Golding Gardens, East Peckham, Tonbridge, Kent, was sentenced to three years after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cannabis. He pleaded not guilt to conspiracy to import cocaine, but the jury were unable to reach a verdict and the charge will now be dropped.
Sean Walsh, aged 45, of Mount Pleasant Road, South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, was sentenced to eight years years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to import cannabis and being found guilty of one charge of conspiracy to import cocaine. (He was found not guilty of a second charge of conspiracy to import cocaine.)
Paul James, aged 36, of New Street, Bulkington, Warks, was sentenced to six years after being found guilty of conspiracy to supply cannabis. He was found not guilty of conspiracy to import cannabis.
Jovan Tumara, aged 43, of Wordsworth Avenue, Stratford Upon Avon, Warwickshire, was sentenced to three years nine months after he was found guilty of conspiracy to supply cannabis.
Two others, Troy Stanton and Renato Haughian, will be sentenced on January 30.
Stanton, aged 47, of no fixed address, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cannabis and conspiracy to supply cannabis.
Haughian, aged 44, of Canalside, Longford, Coventry, has been found guilty of conspiracy to supply cannabis.
Also standing trial were:
• Darren Holmes, aged 47, of Frankton Lane, Stretton on Dunsmore, Warwickshire, but he was found not guilty of conspiracy to supply cannabis.
• David Card, aged 51, of Oakmead Road, Tonbridge, Kent. The jury were unable to reach a verdict on a charge for conspiracy to import cocaine, which will now be dropped.
Detective Chief Inspector Ally Wright, head of Warwickshire Police’s Socu, said: “Today has been a good day for justice. This has been one of the longest and the largest ever proactive investigation ever undertaken by Warwickshire Police and we are pleased we have steadily dismantled a high-level organised crime group.
“Today’s sentences mean that over the last six years we have convicted 32 people of drug trafficking, drug dealing or related offences. We have taken off the streets tonnes of cannabis, 200kg of amphetamines and importantly five illegal firearms. We also seized £130,000 in cash.
“The criminal enterprise headed by Conlon was a multi-million pound business: those involved had amassed the trappings of wealth – for example high-value cars and expensive properties in England and Spain – and yet none of them had a job or paid any tax.
“They were alive to police tactics which meant they were disciplined and determined in their pursuit to make money and avoid detection.
“For example, they were aware of the dangers of mobile telephone data and they changed both handsets and numbers regularly; prosecution evidence included data from 42 different phone numbers.
“However, this did not deter us and the use of the intelligence supplied by the Spanish authorities has been central to this prosecution. I would like to thank them for their assistance.
“I am particularly proud of my team, led by Detective Sergeant Paul Hammond, as they have been professional and dogged in their resolve. I want to place on record my sincere thanks and gratitude to the CPS and prosecuting counsel who have been marvellous throughout.
“I also feel it is important to recognise the support we were given by the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit. Their intelligence networks, support and financial backup have been crucial to us sustaining the course.
“Lastly I want to thank all the forces that assisted us at various times throughout the investigation.