It seems like only yesterday we silently processed the gall of a drug gang that smuggled heroin, cannabis, and MDMA into the UK from Europe in flower boxes. Oh—right.
Now there's news that a group of drug traffickers has got a combined 78 years in prison for ferrying heroin, coke, MCAT, amphetamine, and cannabis into the East Yorkshire area. As luck should have it, the gang—allegedly led by a man called Philip Bell—happened to move drugs into and around Boston, England, where a rate of about 15 murders per 100,000 people apparently makes the Lincolnshire city this year's "murder capital" of the country.
In total, 16 people linked to the gang all pleaded guilty to drug-related offenses, after first slipping up in October 2015 when two drug runners were stopped making an amphetamine, cocaine, and MCAT delivery worth $58,000. Ten men and four women were sentenced to prison time last week at Lincoln Crown Court, with another two due to serve community service hours. One man, Stephen Hopkins, didn't show up to the sentencing, and his case has been adjourned until later this month.
Things started well enough for the gang. Philip Bell met two of his co-defendants, Hull local Leslie Hodgson and Liverpool man Gary Perry, in Hatfield Prison not far from Doncaster. They were all doing time for previous drug offenses, according to the case's prosecutor, George Aspden.
"This was a professional drug trafficking operation," he said in the trial, according to local Lincolnshire press. "The motive appears to have been financial gain rather than drug addiction. Arrangements were coordinated using unregistered pay as you go mobile phones. Significant amounts of money must have changed hands."
The gang was spread across East Yorkshire, Merseyside, Lincolnshire, and Cambridgeshire, according to police. Bell and his associates apparently started moving drugs into Boston from Merseyside and West Yorkshire, before distributing them in the area.
After the October 2015 bust—where police stopped Linda Haw and her husband Joao Dos-Reis making that amphetamine, coke, and MCAT delivery—a search warranted raid on the Kirton, Lincolnshire home of Amber Medina uncovered 4 kgs of coke with a street value of $227,00 in November, according to Lincolnshire police.
John O'Connell, the guy who'd made the delivery to Amber's house, was then arrested carrying $22,000 in cash. In December, a Merseyside man called Ian Jones was arrested in Boston carrying 1 kg of heroin, worth about $95,000.
When authorities started to connect the dots between people affiliated with the gang, they learned about the family members and friends drawn into its network. Hodgson, who had previous drug-related convictions dating back to 2006 and was known to Hull police, brought his partner Paula Jackson into the group. Her house was used for stashing drugs, for which she pleaded guilty. While he got five years in prison, she's been handed an eight-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months with 100 hours of unpaid work—in other words, she won't have to go to prison if she does the unpaid hours.
Amber Medina, of the 4 kg of coke at home raid, was convicted alongside her 55-year-old mother Linda Dos Reis. They've both been charged with conspiracy to supply drugs and possession of cocaine with intent to supply; Amber's due to spend six years in prison, and her mother five years and three months. Philip Bell has been singled out by the prosecution as the ringleader at the center of it all, and he has picked up the longest individual prison sentence of 12 years and eight months.
"This was a major drugs business organized by Bell," said Detective Inspector Paul Myers of the East Midlands Police special operations unit, who headed the investigation. "He not only sourced drugs from Merseyside and elsewhere but arranged for their storage and distribution."
Myers also described Bell as "manipulative and amiable" and the "mastermind of the operation," according to the BBC.
The other defendants in the case were named as Michael Chand from Cambridgeshire, Margaret Wattam, and Louise Baxter from Lincolnshire, and David Towers from Leeds. From Merseyside, Gary Perry, John O'Connell, Ian Jones, Francis Kelly, and Neil Grant were all charged.