Nine men have been jailed for a total of 88 years for a massive trans-Pennine plot to import thousands of pounds’ worth of drugs for distribution on the streets of South Yorkshire.
The gang were caught after police seized two large consignments of amphetamines and cash following an eight-month regional surveillance operation.
To gasps from the public gallery at Sheffield Crown Court, Judge Peter Kelson QC handed down hefty prison sentences - and said he was ‘in no doubt’ the men had imported even more drugs than those seized.
“This was a very busy trans-Pennine drugs business which dealt in substantial quantities of amphetamines, some of which were seized by the police,” he said.
Six of the nine men were from Doncaster, and their meetings took place in lay-bys and service stations across South Yorkshire.
They used ‘dealer phones’ and public phone boxes to cover their tracks.
Philip Stocks, aged 52, from Clay Lane, Doncaster, and Edwin Wilburn, 44, from Bentley, were at the top of the chain.
Judge Kelson jailed Stocks for 24 years and told him: “You were a principal offender, if not the principal offender.”
Locking up Wilburn for a decade, he added: “You were a principal conspirator. You were plainly organising and directing activities with others in the conspiracy.”
Police Operation Yap started last April.
“There were a number of sightings, meetings in lay-bys, cafes, public car parks, motorway service stations and at the side of the road,” said James Baird, prosecuting.
“These meetings were often very brief, and articles were passed over or documents looked at.”
A first police raid took place in May 2012, when one of the gang, Nigel North, was stopped on the M62. Officers found 15 vacuum-packed plastic trays of amphetamines and a tub of cannabis in the boot of his car.
The amphetamines were of high purity and had a street value of £284,000, while the cannabis was worth £4,690.
When North’s home was searched officers found cannabis skunk, bush and resin worth £2,572 ‘all over the house’.
A month later, in June last year, 29-year-old Lee Vaughan from Balby’s car was stopped on the M1 southbound at Woodhall Services. In the boot officers found £21,540 in £20 notes.
Mr Baird said it was drugs money destined for Birmingham.
And in December, in Sandtoft, Doncaster, officers stopped a white Citroen belonging to 39-year-old Lee Colcombe from Epworth. He tried to flee and threw away two carrier bags containing 4kg of high purity amphetamines worth £20,000.
Judge Kelson said the case bore all the classic signs of ‘well organised, serious crime’.
Det Con Tammy Morrell-Knapton - who was commended by the judge for leading an ‘expert operation’ - said afterwards: “The sentences handed out reflect the severity of the offences committed.”