Lewisham Man Jailed for Role in Cocaine Smuggling Conspiracy at Gatwick Airport

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Lewisham Man Jailed for Role in Cocaine Smuggling Conspiracy at Gatwick Airport

A Lewisham man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for his involvement in a major cocaine smuggling conspiracy that utilized corrupt baggage handlers at Gatwick Airport.

Ryan Steadman, 39, was sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court on Monday for his role in a sophisticated operation that saw millions of pounds worth of cocaine transported from Brazil to the UK via Spain. The operation involved couriers carrying cocaine in suitcases from Brazil through Madrid to the UK on Air Europa flights. Upon arrival at Gatwick, the couriers would leave without collecting their checked luggage, allowing the gang to smuggle the suitcases out of the airport with the help of corrupt baggage handlers.

Judge Christopher Grout estimated that the gang was responsible for smuggling more than 50kg of cocaine, with a street value of up to £5.2 million, between February 2020 and November 2021. The network also attempted to use corrupt DHL parcel couriers to import heroin when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted their cocaine scheme, although this plan was never realized.

Steadman and his co-conspirators were found guilty last week after a nine-week trial of conspiracy to import cocaine and conspiracy to import heroin. Tyrone Gordon, 40, from Crawley, Sussex, who was also sentenced, was found guilty of possession with intent to supply cocaine and offering to supply the drug.

Passing sentence, Judge Grout described the plan as “audacious but successful, albeit not as successful as you would have liked.” Gordon, identified as the network’s leader with connections in South America, was sentenced to 26 years for conspiracy to import cocaine, 26 years for conspiracy to import heroin, 14 years for possession with intent to supply cocaine, and nine years for offering to supply cocaine, with the sentences to run concurrently.

Gordon admitted that two Rolex watches he owned had been purchased with drug money. Judge Grout emphasized the broader impact of their crimes, stating, “Class A drugs destroy lives and not just the lives of the people that use them and deal in them. The families of those people – your family – suffer as well. So too does the wider community that has to live with the side effects of drug misuse which includes related criminality – such as robbery and theft – which addicted users of such drugs often commit to fund their habits. You are responsible for contributing to this misery in a major way.”

Steadman, described by the judge as heavily involved in organizing the buying and selling of Class A drugs on a commercial scale, was sentenced to 20 years for conspiracy to import cocaine and 20 years for conspiracy to import heroin, to run concurrently. Both men will serve half their sentences behind bars before being released on licence.

A third man, Jack Williams, who acted as the connection to the corrupt baggage handlers, previously admitted his role in the gang and will be sentenced at a later date.

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