The county lines gang infiltrated rural towns in Powys, preying on the vulnerable, with police saying £1.1 million pounds worth of heroin and crack cocaine were couriered into the Powys area.
Last week at Swansea Crown Court, 21 gang members were sentenced for supplying heroin and cocaine. The 22nd member will be sentenced in January.
The sentencing marks the final stage of Operation Regent, a long and complex investigation targeting county lines groups. Officers from throughout Powys, the force’s Serious and Organised Crime Team and the National Crime Agency worked together to dismantle an organised crime gang operating between Merseyside and Powys.
It ran between August 2016 and June 2018, drug suppliers travelling to Powys from Merseyside and setting up business with local drug dealers to sell heroin and crack cocaine.
The Merseyside based 'OCG' gang based themselves in a number of premises in Powys, including Newtown and Llandrindod Wells. Members used the ‘cuckooing’ method of taking over properties, often homes of vulnerable people, to use them for the preparation and distribution of class A drugs.
Superintendent Jon Cummins said: “This is a fantastic result for Dyfed-Powys Police, in particular our Serious and Organised Crime Team, which has worked tirelessly to dismantle the OCG. But most importantly, this is good news for the communities affected by this activity happening in their residential areas.
"Our action to disrupt supply should clearly demonstrate to travelling criminals that this will not be tolerated in Powys. We may be a rural community but we are a community that works closely with our residents and partners to gather and respond to their concerns and information.”
The operation started executing warrants in August 2018. During one of the arrests, residents lined the street and clapped as the suspect was taken away by police.
A key part of the strategy and investigation was recognition of the complexity of the scenario. Some suspects were potentially victims who may be dependent on drugs.
Police included drug treatment agencies in this part of the operation to make sure those people were offered support and advice to help them turn their lives around, if they were willing to take the help on offer.
Detective Inspector Gareth Grant, Head of Dyfed-Powys Police’s Serious Organised Crime Team, said: A number of these individuals have been heavily involved in the supply and organisation of Class A controlled drugs in the Powys and Merseyside area for a number of years, and their removal from society will greatly benefit the community.
“The success of the operation can be attributed to the close partnership working of a number of policing departments in addition to external organisations. Between our operation and Merseyside operation, a significant organise crime gang has been destroyed, with significant seizures along the way.”
“I must also urge people to contact us - or Crimestoppers if they would prefer to pass on information anonymously - if they suspect drug dealing or cuckooing in their town, village or street. Make sure you’re aware of the signs, such as people coming and going from an address all times of day and night, curtains closed all the time or an increase in anti-social behaviour.”
The 23 court results - one was found not guilty
Six stood trial:
Ryan Thomas Langshaw, aged 21, from Merseyside – found guilty of both counts
Lee Price, aged 37 – found guilty
David Cledwyn Jones, aged 61, from Presteigne – found guilty
Anthony James Butterworth, aged 52, from Newtown, Powys – found guilty
A 17-year-old from Macclesfield, was found guilty
Craig Dunphy, aged 41, was found not guilty of both counts.
17 guilty pleas:
Michael John Williams, aged 20, from Merseyside
Jack Ross, aged 22, from Merseyside
Daniel Putterill, aged 22, from Liverpool
Jack Chew, aged 20, from Merseyside
Karl Anthony O’Hara, aged 28, from Merseyside
Anthony Andrew Byrne, aged 33, from Merseyside
Rebecca Jean Lloyd, aged 35, from Powys
Nigel Barnett, aged 44, from Llandrindod Wells, Powys
David Peter Brown, aged 44, from Little Weston, Powys
Clive Anthony Phillips, aged 35, from Builth Wells, Powys
Hazee Bluebell Wedge, aged 24, from Llandrindod Wells, Powys
Johann Neil Hughes, aged 45, from Rhayader, Powys
Ryan Norman Jolly, aged 38, from Eardisley
Danielle Wye, aged 29, from Newtown, Powys
A 17-year-old from Macclesfield has been sentenced separately. He received a 10 year sentence for manslaughter and conspiracy to supply Class A drugs
Merlin Ziggy Bonner, aged 30, from Llandrindod Wells, Powys
Nathan Duringer, aged 19, from Liverpool
To report anything suspicious or concerns about the selling and taking of drugs in their community by calling 101, or report online.
Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or at crimestoppers-uk.org