They pleaded guilty at Portsmouth Crown Court at a previous hearing in relation to being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs, as part of a County Lines drugs network known as ‘Justin’. The network operated in the Portsmouth and Gosport areas of Hampshire and the charges related to a period between October 2019 and March 2020.
The court heard that officers seized cash totaling £20-30,000 and 200 bundles of wraps suspected to be cocaine and heroin with a street value of £26,360 from his home address.
One of the bundles was found to contain 280 individual wraps of cocaine with a street value of £2800.
Described as having a leading role in the conspiracy, Stephan Gomes, 31, of Donald Road, Croydon, London pleaded guilty to two counts of possession with intent to supply cocaine and heroin and two counts of being concerned in the supply of Class A crack cocaine and heroin and was sentenced to 8 years 6 months in prison.
Gary Black, 64, of Tokio Road, Portsmouth, who is described as having a significant role, pleaded guilty to two counts of being concerned in the supply of Class A crack cocaine and heroin and was sentenced to 3 years 10 months in prison.
This was one of the first joint investigations into county lines dealing under Op Monument – Hampshire Constabulary’s local response to tackling county lines and Operation Orochi, led by the Metropolitan Police into county lines dealing, and is the first sentence for Op Monument/Op Orochi’s collaborative work.
Tactical lead for Hampshire Constabulary’s Drug Related Harm, Chief Inspector Mark Lynch said: “ As many of you will know for years a lot of the police enforcement activity that was carried out was focused on local street dealers, having little or no significant long-term impact on the organised crime elements overseeing these national and regional drug networks.
Since the launch of Op Monument in the New Year, by working closely with the Metropolitan police and other County Line exporting force areas across the UK, we have shifted our attention to those that run and profit from these drug lines in a methodology that improves our evidence gathering, and helps create successful court results such as this.
Not only does this mean that organised criminals are receiving longer custodial sentences, but these tactics are helping us to disrupt the supply of controlled drugs within Hampshire and improving the way we identify and protect those at most risk of harm.’’
Detective Sergeant Liam Cook from Hampshire Constabulary said: “This is an exceptional result for what was the first joint investigation under Op Monument. Interventions and sentences of this duration have been rare and I am pleased that the determination of officers and staff from both Hampshire Constabulary and the Metropolitan Police has resulted in dismantling this network and bringing them to justice.
“There is an undeniable link between drugs and violence and that is why disrupting the supply through County Lines is a crucial part of our work. Over the past year we have developed a much deeper understanding of the drivers of County Lines and how those orchestrating it operate. It is an abhorrent crime that causes misery for communities. We are committed to doing everything we can to stop Hampshire being targeted by drugs networks and I hope this sentencing acts as a warning to others considering coming to our city to deal drugs that it will not be tolerated.
“If you have any concerns about drug-related activity in your area, please get in touch. All information helps us develop a stronger intelligence picture and could help us catch and convict those who are dealing drugs in our communities.”
Detective Chief Inspector Ant Jones, from the Metropolitan Police Service, said: “Over the last year we have worked closely with colleagues in other forces to tackle County Lines at the point of origin and in the exporting area to ensure we entirely dismantle these violent drug distribution networks.
“Through this approach, not only are we identifying lines and those who control them more quickly, but by having investigating officers at either end building the case simultaneously, we are arresting these individuals with a wealth of evidence against them ready to present to the Crown Prosecution Service. This approach was used in this successful investigation which has put dangerous individuals behind bars. The quality of investigation is evident through the guilty pleas entered at an early stage.
“We will continue to work with Hampshire, and colleagues across the country, in the coming days, weeks and months to bring to justice those organising the distribution of drugs, exploiting young people, and bringing harm to our communities.”