Three young men hired a flash Range Rover to use to drive to Rugby where they checked into hotels they used as bases while running a large-scale drug-dealing operation in the town.
But the three, all Portuguese nationals who were living in Peterborough at the time, were caught because of suspicion over their activity in an alley at the back of one of the hotels.
And at Warwick Crown Court, Mario Pereira, Ruben Simao and Alex Cid all pleaded guilty to charges of being concerned in the supply of both heroin and crack cocaine.
Pereira (26) of Cross Street, Peterborough, was jailed for five years and eight months, while Simao (30) of Stagshaw Drive, Peterborough, was jailed for five years and four months.
Cid (21) of Keeton Road, Peterborough, was jailed for four-and-a-half years after being given more credit for entering his guilty pleas at an earlier stage than the other two.
Prosecutor Jennifer Josephs said: “The three of them travelled from Peterborough to Rugby, bringing with them large quantities of heroin and crack cocaine.
“They had a black Range Rover Evoque which had been hired in Peterborough, and they stayed at various hotels in Rugby from which to sell drugs to local youths.”
The trio were found to have travelled to Rugby on March 9, and by March 11 they were using a room at hotel in town which had been booked in advance in Pereira’s name.
Cid was also seen at the hotel where he claimed he and Pereira were producing music videos – and when staff went to the room the next day to ask them to check out, Simao was also there.
By then there had been reports of drug-dealing activity in an alleyway at the back of the hotel.
The next day the Range Rover was seen being driven by Simao leaving a Dunchurch hotel, followed by a taxi, and it was stopped in Rugby town centre.
In the car the police found £2,600 in bank notes, and £150 in coins, as well as various mobile phones, and Simao, who claimed he was on holiday from Lisbon, had a further £305 on him.
The police traced the taxi to another hotel in Rugby, where they arrested Pereira and Cid as they were leaving – and in their room was a bag containing heroin and crack, and electronic scales.
There were 391 wraps of crack and 119 of heroin ready for sale to users, plus bulk amounts of the two drugs, 76.6 grams of crack and 39 grams of heroin, ready to be divided into deals.
And Miss Josephs, who asked for a further hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act to take place later in the year, said the total street value of the drugs was £15,010.
The court heard that none of the men had any convictions in this country, and Cid was of previous good character, but the other two had convictions for offences including robbery and Simao for trafficking cannabis.
Ian Speed, for Pereira, said he came to the UK in 2017 and worked for six months in a restaurant before going back to Portugal, then returned last year and worked in a warehouse and rented his own accommodation, but found he could not cope.
Andrew Tucker, for Cid, said he had been living here with his mother since 2011, and had worked since leaving school, but then went into an ill-fated venture to open a Portuguese café.
He took out a £5,500 loan to fund it, but it closed after less than 12 months and he had to continue repaying the loan, which had left him in considerable debt.
So he asked around for suggestions on how to raise some money, ‘and this came to light and he took it up,’ said Mr Tucker, who added: “He was doing it so he could continue paying off the loan and paying his board and lodging to his mother.”
Judge Sarah Buckingham commented: “He could have slashed his overheads straight away by hiring a less flashy car.”
Thomas Mayall, for Simao, stressed that, based on the National Crime Agency’s definition, the activity was not ‘county lines’ drug dealing, but ‘straight-forward drug dealing’ by three men going from one town to another to sell drugs.
Jailing the three, Judge Buckingham told them: “You became involved in the criminal activity of the supply of class A drugs. I have to sentence you on the basis that this decision was a recent one, and that it was the first time you had done this.
“Whether it was or not, you sourced and obtained a large quantity of high-value drugs, you had prepared it, and it was ready to be dealt out, and indeed was being dealt out.
“You had hired a Range Rover Evoque to drive yourselves around in, and you had pre-booked hotels from where to carry out your operation. This was a planned, well thought-out joint decision by you to traffic these drugs.
“It matters not whether, as each of you describe, it was motivated by need rather than greed, you had moved away from your home addresses to supply drugs in another area to desperate addicts.
“Had you not been caught, it was obviously an operation which would have continued, as you still had a large quantity of drugs in your possession to sell.
“Desperation and need are no excuse. Many young and older people are living in difficult situations, in dire financial circumstances, but do not end up resorting to serious offences such as this.”