POLICE used listening devices and covert surveillance to catch a gang of men who were dealing in cannabis, it was alleged in court.
The drug was said to have been brought in from Thailand and from the Netherlands and was supplied to various places around the UK.
Boxer William O’Brien from Wrexham was a cannabis dealer operating with others to supply the class B drug, prosecuting barrister John Philpotts alleged as he opened the trial at Mold Crown Court on Friday. It is expected to last up to six weeks.
The jury heard how nine men from Wrexham, Chester, Manchester and Scotland had originally been charged with conspiracy to supply controlled drugs between February 2011 and February 2012.
Five defendants – William O’Brien, 28, of Penllwyn, Johnstown; Kevin Christopher Molloy, 31, of Warnford Close, Manchester; Lee Anthony Boland, 29, of Polebrook Avenue, Manchester; James O’Brien, 25, of Erbistock Mews, Erbistock, and Martin Ronald Bailey, 36, of Poyser Street, Wrexham – have gone on trial before Judge Niclas Parry.
The jury were told that four others – David James Higgins, 40, of Leigh Road, Leigh; Ronald McDonald, 44, of Mathieson Place, Dunfermline; Andrew Marc Ould, 26, of Bramble Close, Marford; and Myles Williams, 25, of Greysfield Cottages, The Village, Great Barrow, Chester – had all pleaded guilty.
Mr Philpotts told the jury that in February 2012, William O’Brien was stopped by police as he drove a hired Subaru near Wrexham.
He was found to be in possession of 1.65 kilos of cannabis in a red hold-all, worth up to £16,500.
He had admitted possessing the drugs with intent to supply.
It was the prosecution case that William O’Brien, in association with Lee Boland based in Manchester, obtained the drugs initially through a man and his brother in the South West of England.
There were contacts in the Netherlands and in Thailand and later cannabis was obtained through Higgins from the Leigh and Wigan area.
It was claimed that William O’Brien supplied cannabis to McDonald in Dunfermline and employed a number of couriers to deliver the drugs personally to him.
His brother James O’Brien and Martin Bailey were alleged to be couriers, together with Ould and Williams.
Mr Philpotts alleged that Molloy was Boland’s right hand man.
It was alleged that several of the conspirators had links with other drug dealers who were not before the court but who had been convicted elsewhere.
The prosecution would present evidence which involved key dates, surveillance evidence, mobile phone analyses showing contact between various defendants and the location of the phones at the time, and automatic number plate recognition evidence, together with the evidence of the activity in bank accounts operated by some of the defendants, Mr Philpotts explained.
The jury would hear of a moneygram transfer sent by William O’Brien to a person in Thailand.
He had also sent money transfers to the Netherlands to a man named Edwin Gorlee who had pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Court to conspiracy to import cannabis and other drugs.
Mr Philpotts said there was evidence of meetings between William O’Brien and other convicted drug dealers.
Covert surveillance of meetings in Manchester were carried out.
Significant text messages linked various defendants and there were text messages to William O’Brien from Thailand and The Netherlands.
During his three-hour opening, Mr Philpotts went into the detail of the phone calls, text messages and meetings including one in a Manchester side street at which William O’Brien, Boland and Molloy were said to be present with others.
Surveillance officers filmed William O’Brien meeting Ould in the car park of Halford’s in Wrexham before Ould then drove to Scotland. That same night O’Brien had a meeting with his alleged supplier from the Netherlands.
Mr Philpotts said that twice on return journeys from Scotland Ould had been stopped for speeding – police seized £34,340 from the vehicle on the first occasion and £18,000 on the second, which the prosecution said was drugs money.
The prosecutor also claimed there were problems with payments on occasions– and claimed that McDonald was behind with his payments to William O’Brien which put him in debt with his suppliers.
A listening device installed in William O’Brien’s car recovered a conversation with Boland in which Boland said Ould was out on bail but “Fatty is screaming for his dough”.
In May 2011 it was alleged that William O’Brien was boxing at a tournament in Halesowen.
It was alleged that he was at the tournament together with a convicted drug dealer and that there was significant contact between William O’Brien and Thailand and between him and Boland that day.
When William O’Brien’s home was searched, after his arrest, packaging was recovered consistent with having held large quantities of cannabis.
Business cards of two convicted drug dealers were found.
See full story in the Chester Leader