A drug dealing group have been sentenced to a total of 67 years for their involvement in a £12.5million conspiracy to supply heroin from Liverpool to Brighton and Eastbourne.
Following a seven-week retrial at Hove Crown Court, a jury on 9 March found Lea Elton Smith guilty of conspiracy to supply heroin. On 24 March 2015 search warrants were carried out under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, at nine addresses in Brighton, one in Eastbourne and one in Liverpool.
During the searches, which involved more than 100 police officers and staff, three safes were also found.
Following the raids, 13 people were charged. During the investigation, the mastermind behind the operation 49-year-old Thomas Wynn from Liverpool, failed to answer police bail. His body was later found in Dubai.
Of the remaining suspects seven previously admitted their guilt, and at the start of re-trial Jon Paul Swann, the son-in-law of Thomas Wynn, also pleaded guilty to his role within the conspiracy.
The court heard that over the period of the indictment couriers working for the gang made more than 50 trips between Liverpool and Sussex, bringing multiple kilos of drugs south for onward supply.
Smith, 46, of Natal Road, Brighton, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply heroin and jailed for 25 years today (19 May) at Hove Crown Court.
Ronald Edwards, 50, of Chiddingly Close, Brighton and Sean Davidson, 50, of Downhill View, Brighton, was found not guilty of conspiracy to supply heroin. The jury was unable to reach a verdict in respect of Louis Makai, 45, of Langridge Drive, Portslade. A retrial will be held for him on 27 November at Hove Crown Court.
Jon-Paul Swann, 33, of Colin Drive, Liverpool, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin at the start of the re-trial on 16 January. He was sentenced to 15 years.
Ian Gerald Frost, 49, of St Michael's Place, Brighton, was found not guilty of conspiracy to supply heroin but admitted charges of dangerous driving and possession of cannabis from 21 August 2014. He was earlier sentenced to 10-months imprisonment and banned from driving for 12 months.
Kingsley Walls, 44, of Langley Crescent, Brighton, Lee Mack, 51, of Sheepcote Valley Caravan Park, Brighton and Andrew Antoniou, 58, of Dorset Mews, Brighton, who all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin, have all died of natural causes prior to sentencing.
Neil Ballad, 48, of Hangleton Road, Hove, Paul Shannon, 60, of North Street, Eastbourne and Arthur Jones, 55, Downs Avenue, Eastbourne had all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin. Julie Coltherd, 44, of Langley Crescent, Brighton pleaded guilty to money laundering rather than conspiracy to supply heroin. She did not appear at court today (19 May) and will be sentenced at a later date.
Ballard was jailed for seven years and Shannon and Jones were each sentenced to 10 years.
The court heard how detectives from the Community Investigation Team in Brighton led a series of drugs raids in March 2015 resulting in 19 arrests and the seizure of £50,000 cash. Search warrants were carried out at nine addresses in Brighton, one in Eastbourne and one in Liverpool.
During these searches, which involved more than 100 police officers and staff, six kilos of heroin mixed with cutting agent were found and seized, with an estimated street value of £600,000.
Detective Inspector Julie Wakeford said, "This case resulted from a nine-month covert investigation into an organised crime network, supplying heroin from Liverpool to Brighton, Hove and Eastbourne. Disrupting this network of dealers has meant not only that their heroin has been prevented from being sold on our streets but also by targeting all those involved in their entire network from the top to the bottom, we have achieved a long term disruption of their ability to operate.
"The sentences received by those in court today sends out a message that we will not tolerate the supply of drugs into the city. My team along with colleagues in Sussex and other police forces around the country will continue to work alongside many other agencies to disrupt any group who come here to sell drugs."