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Drugs

How One Guy’s Illegal U-Turn Brought Down a Cannabis Gang

A routine stop helped unravel the threads connecting two brothers, their childhood friend and a $1.2 million stash of weed.
May 14, 2016, 1:39pm

This article originally appeared on VICE UK

He probably wasn't quite the right man for the job. A couple of years ago Armadeep Randhawa, a 30-year-old with a short stint as a cannabis courier, made one mistake that unravelled a Plymouth drug gang's entire operation. Randhawa was just sentenced to 16 months in prison on Friday the 13th of May for his part in the group's weed-dealing business, but we've got to go back further to understand how the police ended up with their hands on about £960,000 [$1.37 million] worth of drugs being moved across the country.

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Cast your mind back to September 2013. Randhawa, who lived up in Telford, was going about his day, driving approximately £40,000 [about $57,500] worth of cannabis along the 228-mile journey to Plymouth. He'd been doing well so far, all things considered. According to later court testimony, the gang that he was moving drugs for had been getting on with things since March 2013, making regular cannabis deliveries from the Midlands to Devon's southwestern coast.

Then things changed, rather quickly, on the 17th of September in 2013. Someone in the city had died, and the trailing cars of their funeral procession drove through Plymouth. Randhawa spun his car around in an illegal U-turn near the funeral cortege, and a police officer spotted him. "Randhawa did a manoeuvre close to a funeral procession and PC Bulley went over to speak to him and give him advice on his inconsiderate driving," said acting detective inspector Paul Weymouth, a senior investigating officer in what became known as "Operation Boom". "Most people slow down when they see a funeral cortege, but he was being disrespectful. We had no idea about who the other people were."

PC Gavin Bulley pursued Randhawa, mostly to scold him for violating the minor traffic regulation, and pulled Randhawa's Ford Mondeo over outside the city's infamous North Prospect housing estate.

At that point, it may have crossed Randhawa's mind that having a bag with 3.6kg of cannabis in his car could be a problem. Particularly, that keeping said bag on the backseat of the car may have been the biggest issue. Randhawa was reportedly arrested immediately, once Bulley smelled then recovered the $57,000-worth stash of drugs, according to the Crown Prosecution's representative in court. But it turned out the car didn't belong to Randhawa, and when police looked it up, the Mondeo linked back to a man called Stephen Beighton – a childhood friend of Randhawa's – who lived in the West Midlands.

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Stephen's brother Robert, however, was a Plymouth local – and known to the police. Bulley, the PC who'd pulled Randhawa over, had directly dealt with Robert before, and that pushed police to track the car's past movements. One by one, the pieces of the gang's plan fell apart. The cops used number plate recognition cameras to build up a virtual map of the 24 trips Randhawa or Stephen Beighton had made in the Mondeo, and used a crude estimate to presume the group may have moved cannabis worth about $1.2 million in six months of known activity. Mobile phone records looped other guys into the drug network.

In total, six men were named and charged as part of what a judge termed a conspiracy to supply a vast quantity of cannabis: the two Beighton brothers, unlucky Randhawa, David Ford, Anthony Eversfield and James Jones. Appearing in court at varying times since first facing a judge in March 2015, they all admitted the charge to supply the class B drug. Randhawa's sentencing on Friday has heralded the end of the whole case – poetic, considering how the police investigation started.


Watch: The Hard Lives of Britain's Synthetic Marijuana Addicts


Here's how things look likely to go for everyone involved. Eversfield, 43, was given a 12-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months – which means he won't have to go inside, but must do 180 hours of unpaid work and pay a total of £750 [about $1,000]. The judge basically said he avoided doing time because he's the sole carer of his 16-year-old daughter, although Eversfield admitted in court that he let dealers use his house as a meeting point for drug and cash exchanges.

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For their part in orchestrating the operation, Stephen Breighton got a 30-month jail sentence and his older brother Robert three years and three months. Ford was jailed for two years, which would have been his lot had he not poured freshly-boiled water over his ex-housemate while he was out on bail in a "row over an open window". He'll spend another two years in jail for that, too. Finally, Jones got an 18-month sentence suspended for 18 months and his own 180 hours of unpaid work. His main role, according to his lawyer, had been to "accept the drugs and pass them onto others for money".

Randhawa's lawyer made the case that his client was a "vulnerable and weak person who allowed himself to be used by his co-defendant Stephen Beighton", but that wasn't enough to keep Randhawa from a jail sentence. He may not have been the right guy for the job, but will likely be thinking about it for quite a while.

More on VICE:

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Everything We Know About the Gang Caught Trafficking Drugs into the UK's Murder Capital

Remembering All the Horrific Ways We Smoked Weed as Teenagers