View attachment 40286 ENGLAND - Members of a criminal gang that operated across the UK and abroad have been jailed after the police seized £55m worth of drugs.
The group, based in the north east and led by Michael Watts, 48, travelled to Europe and packed furniture full of heroin and amphetamine before using legitimate removal companies to bring it back to the UK. They then distributed the drugs across the country while spending the money they made from their illegal activity on luxuries such as Porsches and new houses, Newcastle Crown Court heard.
Watts, from Jarrow, Tyne and Wear, was helped by his right-hand man Neil Hoban, 52, from Stockton, and a team of men who assisted with the logistics. In total, 30kg of heroin, 408kg of amphetamine and £500,000 in cash was seized by the North East Regional Special Operations Unit from a storage unit in North Yorkshire.
Detective Superintendent Tim Walker said: "Operation Patton was a NERSOU operation launched to disrupt the activity of an organised crime group operating not just in the north east but throughout the country and abroad. "More than £50m worth of drugs were seized from a storage unit in North Yorkshire, which were clearly destined for distribution in communities not just across the north east but farther afield. Not only that, but a substantial amount of cash was found stored in holdalls when a car was stopped and searched.
"This group were responsible for importing drugs from Europe under the guise of transporting furniture; duping legitimate removal companies who were unaware of their illegal activities to import their drugs.
"This investigation saw a number of key events that led to today's 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."
Watts was jailed for 10 years and two months and Hoban received a sentence of eight years and five months.
Other members of the gang included David Faulkener, 54, from Northampton, who was jailed for six years, Kevin Christopher Murray, 39, from Nottingham, who received 11 years, and Michael Li, 48, from Northamptonshire, who was given eight years and four months.
The Guardian/September 12, 2014