AN organised crime gang from Ellesmere Port has been sentenced to a total of 30 years for drug supply offences.
The five men and one woman were convicted as part of Operation Impact - a complex investigation by Cheshire Police in the town.
Four of the men were previously convicted and sentenced.
One man, Michael Jones, and one woman, Toni Cashmore, were the final defendants to be sentenced at Chester Crown Court on Monday.
Jailed: Clockwise from top left, Steven Day, Andrew Hewitt, ringleader Michael Jones, Peter Murray and Daniel Knight
Jones, 37, from Ellesmere Port, was said to be the ringleader and used his car repair business as a cover for the large scale distribution of illegal drugs across the North West.
Some of the defendants were arrested during a strike phase in late September 2016 when warrants were executed at a number of properties in the town.
A total of 30 officers from across the force assisted Cheshire’s Task Force in the raids.
It was the culmination of four months of work and evidence gathering by a dedicated team of officers - focusing on the activities of the gang, which was involved in the large-scale distribution of class A and B drugs in Ellesmere Port and surrounding areas.
Jones had previously pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to supply heroin, crack cocaine and cocaine following four separate seizures of significant quantities of class A drugs by the investigation team in Summer 2016.
He was sentenced on Monday to a total of 12 years.
Toni Cashmore, 31, from Ellesmere Port, was responsible for storing and preparing significant quantities of drugs on behalf of Jones.
She previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to supplying heroin and crack cocaine and was sentenced on Monday. She received a two year suspended sentence. A quantity of Class A drugs were recovered from her home after a warrant was executed on 21 September 2016.
Peter Murray, from Ellesmere Port, previously pleaded guilty to possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply and received five years in prison.
He acted as a courier for the gang and was arrested after being stopped on the M6 southbound at Cannock on September 1, 2016, in possession of 5kg of cocaine – the drugs had come from Michael Jones’ business premises.
Andrew Hewett, from Ellesmere Port, worked for the gang as a trusted runner and was arrested on August 24, 2016, following a pre-planned strike on his vehicle at the Holiday Inn, Ellesmere Port.
He previously pleaded guilty to possession of class A drugs with intent to supply and was jailed for three-and-a-half years.
Steven Day, from Ellesmere Port, was a local street dealer on behalf of the gang distributing class A drugs to users in the town. He received a three-and-a-half year jail term after previously pleading guilty to possession of class A drugs with intent to supply, following his arrest on July 19, 2016.
Daniel Knight, from Ellesmere Port, also previously pleaded guilty to offering to supply heroin and Crack Cocaine and was sentenced to three years and nine months. He was arrested following a stop check in May 28, 2016, earlier in the investigation.
Following the four separate seizures, the drugs were analysed and confirmed as heroin, crack cocaine and cocaine of an estimated street value of in excess of £1 million.
At the conclusion of the investigation, a total of 12 vehicles were seized and detectives worked with local officers and Chester West and Chester Council to evict the business belonging to Michael Jones from Meadow Lane Industrial Estate. The premises remains closed.
Chief Inspector Simon Draco said: “Michael Jones and his associates have been collectively jailed for a total of 30 years.
“The members of this organised crime gang brought misery, fear and intimidation to the streets of Ellesmere Port. The sentences handed down reflect the severity of their crimes and the significant impact that their behaviour had on local people.
“A dedicated team of officers have spent hours securing evidence as part of this complex case to ensure that those involved were brought to justice.
“Cheshire Constabulary is committed to tackling organised crime and drug supply. Organised crime blights local communities and residents can rest assured that our efforts will continue. The successful conclusion of this case has resulted in a number of individuals being taken off the streets for a very long time.”
Cheshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, David Keane, added: “Having seen the threat posed by organised criminal gangs to our communities I would like to thank all of the officers and staff involved in the operation for the dedication and commitment that they have shown.
“I would like to assure the people of Cheshire that this type of action will continue as the constabulary works to make our communities safer.”
See full story in the Chester Leader