A Frodsham man and his ringleader brother-in-law have been jailed after admitting their role in a 10-strong criminal gang that smuggled drugs and money the length of the UK.
The group was imprisoned for a total of 31 years at Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday (December 19) following a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation.
Matthew Morgan, 41, of Main Street, Frodsham, and Alistair Welding, 28, of St Helens, brokered drugs deals for the gang and pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges for their role in what has been dubbed a ‘white van trafficking network’.
Morgan admitted conspiracy to supply the following drugs – amphetamine (x2), cannabis (x2) and MCAT.
He received five years and three months in jail. Welding was handed a sentence of five years and four months.
The group was led by Morgan’s brother-in-law and associate Jamie Hughes, 37, of Warrington, and operated out of the North West of England. Members delivered bulk loads of drugs to clients in locations from Scotland to London in vans with hidden compartments.
Hughes was imprisoned for five years and four months after pleading guilty to his role in the conspiracy.
He claimed to be a car dealer but was exchanging vehicles as part payment for drugs such as cannabis, amphetamines and ketamine.
Hughes, who kept a stun gun disguised as an iPhone, installed a CCTV system to monitor his driveway. It provided NCA officers with key evidence against his network as footage showed various members of the conspiracy exchanging packages or leaving Hughes’s address with parcels.
Michael Longworth, 38, of Halsall, Lancashire, supplied members of Hughes’s network with amphetamine sulphate. He was among those captured on the ringleader’s cameras and was sentenced to six years in prison after going to trial.
In addition to cash seizures and damning emails, evidence used against the group included traces of ketamine found in the floor concealment of a white Peugeot Partner van and a hidden compartment in the rear of a white Vauxhall Vivaro van.
Both concealments were skilfully constructed and operated by switches in the cabs.
David Whalley, 37, of St Helens, sentenced to three years and four months after a guilty plea, provided the base for the group’s couriers at his transport yard, which was also a home for the adapted vans he supplied to the group.
NCA officers exposed the group in an investigation that ran from October 2014 to January 2016.
Officers from the Metropolitan, Cheshire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester police gave important support.
Cheshire police stopped Kevin Smith, 29, from Liverpool, on the motorway on the NCA’s behalf and found £135,000 cash in his car. On Tuesday Smith, who was a courier for the group, received four years and six months in prison.
The Met stopped Daljeet Singh Juttla, 42, of Ruislip, London, with £90,000 of drugs money Richard Hunt had couriered down to the city on Hughes’s behalf. Juttla received 20 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, and 200 hours unpaid work for money laundering.
Hunt, 35, a close associate of Hughes’s from Liverpool, was an occasional courier and chased drug debts. He received two years and four months.
Alan Oliver, 37, from Widnes, received a three-year community order for his part as a courier, while John Ellis, 60, of Liverpool, who supplied cash to Juttla, was given a rehabilitation order.
Jane Lloyd, branch commander at the NCA, said: “Established trafficking routes like these present a complex and troubling threat to the UK.
“With well worked-out logistics a criminal group can turn its hand to anything from gun running or drug smuggling, expanding their own operations or hiring out their services to others.
“NCA officers are alert to the tactics criminals use to shift commodities and hide their activity and are equipped with the skills and tools needed to bring them to justice.”