Heroin and cocaine gang given 50 years jail term

Surveillance footage of Lewis Young doing drug deals in Claremont Park

Surveillance footage of Lewis Young doing drug deals in Claremont Park

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A gang which flooded Blackpool with Class A drugs has been jailed for a total of more than 50 years.

Operation Duroy was a covert investigation by Lancashire Constabulary’s West Targeted Crime Unit into the large-scale supply of heroin and crack cocaine in the Blackpool area.

The group originated from Merseyside and was known as “Scouse Josh”.

Over the course of the police operation it’s estimated the gang supplied at least £500,000 of Class A drugs to the resort.

Local drug users would call an established telephone number known as the “Josh” phone to place orders for the drugs. The phone was based in the Merseyside area and was controlled by the gang’s leader Leon Foster, 26.

Users would be directed to a local address or public place such as a park where a street level dealer would supply the buyer with their order of drugs.

I am really pleased with the sentences which follow a long and complex investigation lasting over six months into these criminals and their drug dealing activities

The group frequently changed addresses and areas in which they dealt to avoid detection.

The group had a hierarchy consisting of Foster, the head of the group and controller of the “Josh” phone, who then employed middlemen who acted as couriers who stayed in Blackpool in guest houses and hotels.

The middlemen would courier the drugs from Liverpool to Blackpool and manage the street-level dealers resupplying them with drugs when required and collecting money earned through the sale of drugs.

Local users would often have their premises taken over by the group in exchange for drugs or to pay off a debt to the group. They also acted as street-level runners for the group.

The Josh phone would be active from early morning to the late night taking dozens of call per day. The phone would often send out a blanket text message to customers describing they were open for business and the quality of their drugs.

West TCU investigated the group from May 29 to December 17 2013 in relation to conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

On December 17, police executed a drugs warrant at 4B Peel Street in Toxteth, Liverpool which was identified as the criminal gang’s headquarters. The property was a converted bungalow occupied by a disabled male assisted by carers.

When police went in to the address Foster was there and was seen to attempt to dispose of the “Josh” phone. He was arrested and found in possession of £1,330 cash in his pockets.

A search revealed a further £7,840 cash in sandwich bags hidden away and a further £3,420 cash was seized from under the pillow of the disabled male.

The search also found an array of illegal items including: pre prepared wraps of heroin and crack cocaine; plastic wraps and gloves used for the preparation and production of heroin and crack cocaine; cannabis; large volumes of mixing agent known as ‘bash’ – caffeine and paracetemol for heroin and phenacitin for crack cocaine – and empty packaging of import-strength heroin.

Officers also found scales for weighing the drugs; a stun gun disguised an Iphone, body armour, shotgun ammunition, live 9mm ammunition, balaclavas and dark clothing and false number plates and machetes in holdalls.

In relation to the conspiracy, 13 people were charged with conspiracy to supply heroin andcrack cocaine.

Det Insp Kev Simmons, of Blackpool Police, said: “I am really pleased with the sentences which follow a long and complex investigation lasting over six months into these criminals and their drug dealing activities.”

The gang

Leon Foster (the gang leader), 26, formerly of Jericho Close, Liverpool, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine and sentenced to 12 years.

Michael White (middle man), 25, of no fixed address, was convicted after a trial of conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine and was sentenced to nine years.

Jake Smith (middle man), 25, formerly of Wordsworth Street, Liverpool, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine and was sentenced to eight years.

David Morton (middle man), 27, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine and was sentenced to six years.

Daniel Morton (street level dealer), 22, of no fixed address, was convicted after a trial of conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine and was sentenced to five years.

Lee Groves (street level dealer), 23, of no fixed addresss, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine and was sentenced to 40 months.

Christine Atkinson (local drug user/street dealer), 38, of Burlington Road, Blackpool, was convicted after a trial of conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine and was sentenced to four and a half years.

Christopher Holmes (local drug user/street dealer), 28, formerly of Bedford Road, Blackpool, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine and was sentenced to four years.

Mark Simons (local drug user/street dealer), 44, of Cockerham Walk, Blackpool, was convicted after a trial of conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine and was sentenced to four and a half years.

Belinda Holmes, 54, of Caunce Street, Blackpool, pleaded guilty to allowing her home to be used for the supply of Class A drugs and was sentenced to a 12-month supervision and drug rehabilitation order.

Lewis Young (street level dealer), 22, of Wadham Road, Bootle, Merseyside, was arrested during the course of the operation and charged with possession with intent to supply heroin and crack cocaine and sentenced to 14 months in prison in March 2014.

Martin Howard (local drug user/street dealer), 29, of Central Drive, Blackpool was charged with conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine as part of this operation but was convicted of a separate conspiracy to supply class A drugs and attempting to smuggle drugs into prison and jailed for seven years in April last year.

David Morton and Lee Groves are already serving a sentence for aggravated burglary after they broke into the house of a drug user in Blackpool who refused to deal for Scouse Josh and assaulted the man and his partner.