JAIL terms totalling almost 31 years have been given to members of a criminal gang who plotted to bring class A and B drugs into Cumbria.
Three men from Carlisle and one from Barrow were among seven people sentenced by a judge today (FRI) for their respective roles in the conspiracy. This ran for more than eight months last year when cocaine, heroin and cannabis were trafficked from Merseyside and East Lancashire.
Police rounded up the criminals after gathering a wealth of intelligence, and seized illegal drugs worth tens of thousands of pounds from two couriers.
Johnathan O’Neil, 28, of Creighton Avenue, and Darren Snowden, 45, of Brookside, Raffles, both Carlisle, were sentenced at the city’s crown court today (FRI) for conspiring to supply cocaine. O’Neil was jailed for seven-and-a-half years, and Snowden for two years and eight months.
Andrew John Berry, 25, of Bower Street, Carlisle, and Levi Howard, 30, of High Cliff, Barrow-in-Furness, pleaded guilty to a cannabis conspiracy supply charge, and were each locked up for two years.
Lee Jamieson, 30, of Churchfield Road, Liverpool, had been responsible for the “wholesale” supply of high purity cocaine. He was jailed for seven-and-a-half years.
John Patefield, 49, of Rivacre Road, Ellesmere Port, admitted conspiring to supply cocaine, while fellow courier Sam Stone, of Lynwood Avenue, Darwen, pleaded guilty to cocaine, heroin and cannabis charges.
Patefield was jailed for four years and eight months, and Stone had 18 months added to an existing three-year term.
Kathleen Berry, 25, of Brampton Old Road, Carlisle, admitted a lesser crime of being concerned in the supply of cannabis, and was given a community order.
The operation was uncovered over a period of a few months by covert detectives who monitored those involved meeting up on a number of dates believed to be supplying drugs and cash from Merseyside into Carlisle.
Lee Jamieson ran an organised crime group in Liverpool and sourced high-purity cocaine and cannabis for Jonathan O’Neil and Andrew Berry, who were the joint heads of the North Cumbria side of the operation. Jamieson would send couriers Sam Stone and John Patefield on numerous trips to Cumbria to meet with O’Neil and Berry, who would then distribute the drugs locally. Stone was arrested by officers on the M6 near Kendal on the 30th June 2016 while on route to Carlisle after his vehicle was searched and found to contain heroin, cocaine and cannabis.
This did not deter the group as Patefield took up the role of Jamieson’s main courier for this particular operation. Patefield was himself arrested on 31st July 2016 after cocaine, worth a street value of over £75,000, was found in a storage department of his vehicle following being stopped by officers on the M6 near Penrith.
Telecoms investigations and the covert observations would link all seven to each other as part of this drugs conspiracy.
Acting Inspector Patrick McDonnell said: ‘’Operation Matterhorn was a proactive investigation into an organised crime gang that operated across Cumbria and the north west of England. The gang were a close and disciplined group who undertook numerous steps to attempt to avoid detection and prosecution by the police. As a result of considerable hard work of the Serious and Organised Crime Unit the steps taken by the gang were unsuccessful and incriminating evidence was secured.
“In terms of the roles each party played Jamieson is the latest of a long line of Merseyside-based criminals who has sought to organise the trafficking of drugs into Cumbria but ultimately is now serving time for these actions.
“Stone and Patefield were two of his trusted couriers who were both caught by alert uniformed officers carrying the drugs on separate occasions. Couriers are often paid a pittance to transport drugs between Liverpool and Cumbria whilst this is taken into account at sentencing so is the classification and value of the drugs recovered. In reality the role they undertaken has a significant risk of imprisonment considering the actual benefit they receive.
“The leaders of the Carlisle-side of the operation involved and used members of their family with O’Neil’s step-father, Darren Snowden, and Berry’s wife used as points of contact with the couriers.
“The main leaders of the groups within Cumbria and Liverpool have obviously received the most significant jail sentences which we hope will have a meaningful impact on them. The steps to fully tackle this type of offence and make it unappealing to others will not stop with the criminal trial. We will look to use proceeds of crime legislation to recover the benefit from the supply of drugs and target criminals where it matters the most, in their pocket.
“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.”
Anyone with information on the supply of drugs is asked to contact police on 101 or alternatively you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.