MEMBERS of a criminal gang who teamed up to flood the Carlisle area with heroin and cocaine have been jailed for a total of almost 46 years.
Police rounded up seven people – including two with city addresses – as they smashed a huge plot to sell class A drugs to addicts.
Part of their offending was done through an illegal enterprise known as “cuckooing”. Carlisle Crown Court heard this saw one gang member – 32-year-old Christopher Hill – kicked out of his city home, which was then used a crooked business base.
Up to £380,000 worth of heroin and cocaine is estimated to have been sold during a “well organised” and “highly profitable” plot which ran for almost two years. Hundreds of texts were also sent from a single mobile phone number to local drug users which advertised that the plotters were “open for business”.
Following their arrests, the seven criminals each admitted conspiring to supply the two substances to others.
Ryan Doforo, 32, of Chislehurst Avenue, Liverpool – the ringleader – was jailed for 14-and-a-half years.
His right hand man, Kevin Thompson, 31, of Freedom Close, Liverpool, was locked up for eight years.
Michael O’Rourke, 27, of Starbrook Way, Southport, and Nicalao Sindani, 23, of no fixed abode, were sent to prison seven and five years, respectively.
Kirsty Louise Cartwright, 29, of Millholme Avenue, Carlisle, received six years and four months, while Andrew Beard, 39, of Newtown Square, Gretna, was jailed for five years
Hill, of Toronto Street, Carlisle – said to have played a lesser role and been exploited by others – had his two-year term suspended for two years.
Judge Peter Davies described the impact of the plot on the local economy and community as “devastating”.
Acting Detective Inspector Patrick McDonnell, Serious & Organised Crime Unit, said: ‘’Operation Mantis was a proactive investigation into an organised crime gang that operated across north Cumbria. The main subject of the case, Ryan Doforo, had been suspected of being a significant and potentially dangerous Liverpool based drug dealer who was controlling a considerable amount of the Class A drug supply in the city of Carlisle and surrounding area.
“A number of arrests of persons for drug supply offences by Cumbria Police during 2015 were suspected and later proved to be working for Ryan Doforo. The more senior members of the gang operated in such a way to take great care in distancing themselves from these previous arrest and convictions. They did so to try and avoid detection and prosecution allowing persons much nearer the bottom of the ladder to take the risks.
“In early 2016 detectives from the North Drug Squad identified a pattern of mobile phone use after a considerable period of pain-staking time reviewing telecom data. Ultimately it was as a result of this identified pattern that we were able to overcome the significant steps the gang had taken to hide their activities and obtain the incriminating evidence that secured their convictions.
“In terms of the roles each party played Doforo is the latest in a number of Merseyside-based criminals who seek to establish and control the supplying of controlled drugs in other parts of the county away from their area of residence. This type of criminal activity is referred to in law enforcement agencies as ‘county lines.’ The group will establish a network in which they seek to create a brand name for their drug supply activates. Doforo is known by the nickname of ‘Rhino’ and his product and dealers were known throughout Carlisle by this name. Doforo and his key and trusted members of the gang would control this drug trade through the use of a widely known mobile number while often being present in their home town. This phone line was used to receive orders and dispatch the designated dealer on the ground within the city.
“A number of different persons were identified as playing the role of key members of the gang trusted by Ryan Doforo with the running of the gangs phone lines including Anthony Mullen who was convicted at the end of 2015 and Kevin Thompson who was sentenced yesterday.
“Sindani and O’Rourke were two of his trusted lieutenants from Liverpool who regularly based themselves in Carlisle for periods of time for the sole purpose of delivering the drugs to the local drug users. Kirsty Cartwright, although a Carlisle-based person, was also established as being a trusted person who was heavily involved in the logistics of the delivery of drugs.
“Christopher Hill and Andrew Beard are local males who engaged in some of the lower-level work for the gang in regard to transport, housing and errands regarding mobile phones.
“The criminal gangs who use the county lines model such as the one headed by Ryan Doforo are experts in looking to exploit young and vulnerable people to further their activities. These persons are used to take the overtly risky role of storing and supplying drugs as well as the movement of the cash generated from the sales. There has been a lot of information gathered during the investigation which relate to persons being either exploited or subject to threats and or violence regarding drug-related debts or punishment for not following the gang’s instructions.
“The imprisonment of the key gang members is seen as a positive step in the protection of many vulnerable persons in the Carlisle area from these dangers.
“The success of this complex operation in tackling this type of offence shows despite the extensive steps taken to avoid conviction the hard work of the detectives involved has managed to convict the members of the gang. It is hoped that this will send a clear message to other potential drug dealers seeking to establish a market in the North Cumbria area that Cumbria Police will seek to target and dismantle their activities.
“Beyond the years imprisonment that the defendants have received, proceeds of crime legislation will be used to recover the benefit from the supply of drugs. This recovery of the benefit of the crime will seek to further discourage the activity when criminals see the money they obtained from years of crime being taken away from them.
“We will continue to prosecute all those involved in drug supply in our efforts to keep the local communities in Cumbria safe from drug-related crime.”
The conclusion of this lengthy operation comes on the day Cumbria Constabulary launched a drug supply awareness campaign. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the tactics organised crime groups may use in order to establish a supply operation within Cumbria communities. The associated crime and disorder that drug supply causes can bring misery to innocent members of the community.