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Home Breaking Members of an Organised Crime Group responsible for trafficking cocaine with a street value of more than £4 million from London into Devon have been jailed for 46 years and nine month

Members of an Organised Crime Group responsible for trafficking cocaine with a street value of more than £4 million from London into Devon have been jailed for 46 years and nine month

The eight men and one woman carried out 20 courier runs over nine months in 2020 before detectives pulled the plug on their operation.

Officers from the Serious and Organised Crime Branch in Devon & Cornwall Police became aware that the group was using an EncroChat platform to coordinate their illicit activity.

Over a number of months, officers monitored the online conversations and visits to the Southwest before they carried out a sting to arrest and dismantle the group in October 2020.

The nine gang members were sentenced at Exeter Crown Court over three days for conspiracy to supply cocaine and other linked offences.

The sentences mark the conclusion of Operation Lunched, a two-year investigation that spanned three phases. The operation targeted the trafficking of cocaine and cannabis into Devon with 10 people already having been sentenced to over 30 years in prison.

The lead conspirators of the OCG within phase three were Stacy Howells, 45, of Avon Road, Torquay, and 46-year-old Anthony Carr from Lodge Lane, North Finchley in London.

They were the coordinators of the operation which brought between 50kg and 60kg of cocaine into Torquay and Exeter. Their time was spent organising the drug runs, arranging the collections, and managing the cash proceeds.

They were sentenced to 13 years and 10 months, and 10 years and four months respectively after pleading guilty.

Assisting them were by two further organisers. Kevin Leaman, 44, of Glasshouse Lane, Exeter, was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty. Adam Hammerton, 45, of Frobisher Road, St Albans, was sentenced to eight years, after being found guilty at trial.

Detectives monitored the group’s messages online and together with cell site analysis of mobile phones, CCTV and covert surveillance, they built up a picture of the operation being run.

Officers intercepted some of the group’s activity and seized £37,500 in one vehicle stop where a secret compartment was found hidden under fencing within the courier van.

Officers later tracked messages from Carr which said: “Driver supposed to be back at @3:10 phone off…stressing me out’.

He followed this with another message which said: ‘He’s been nicked mate Exeter Police Station give me abit [sic] mate he’s got a bit of work plotted also just having a sort out.”

The group then continued their business endeavours using trusted couriers who were chiefly responsible for transporting the drugs to Devon and collecting the cash made from previous runs.

They were Kieran Martin, 33, of Gilbert Court, Plymouth who was sentenced to two years and two months and Jason Tarone, 52, of Canonbury Road, Islington, who was sentenced to two years and seven months after both pleading guilty. Lee Winter, 60, Durham Rise, London, was given a suspended sentence of two years after he was found guilty by a jury.

On 1 October 2020 police intercepted a drug exchange in a car park in Marsh Barton, Exeter where they seized multiple kilos of cocaine and £47,000 in cash.

After arresting the group, officers carried out further searches including at the home of Darren Hardman, 52, and his wife, Waraporn Hardman, 47, in Corfe Crescent, Torquay.

They were found to be acting as warehousers and a large amount of cocaine was found in their address. Darren Hardman was jailed for four years and 10 months. Waraporn Hardman was given a suspended sentence of 10 months and two weeks for allowing her property to be used in the supply of drugs. They both entered guilty pleas to their roles in the conspiracy.

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