Gang responsible for bringing a kilo of drugs into Devon jailed for 23 years
- Credit: Devon and Cornwall Police
A County Lines drug gang which exploited vulnerable people and brought a kilo of heroin or crack to Devon has been jailed for a total of 23 years.
The Manchester-based County Lines operation was caught because its members behaved so badly at the homes and hotels they were staying led to the police being called several times.
They ‘cuckooed’ a wheelchair drug addict in Exeter and used an empty flat in Exmouth while the owner was away.
The main organiser Sean O’Neill stayed with his girlfriend at the trendy Hotel du Vin in Exeter and other hotels and were reported to police when staff spotted thousands of pounds in cash.
Some members of the gang were arrested repeatedly and released under investigation but went straight back into business, sending thousands of texts to customers every week.
They used the street names Manc P and Black P and sent a total of 20,688 texts in the space of just four months, which works out at around 170 a day.
Police traced at least 16 trips from Manchester to Exeter in which two female couriers brought thousands of pounds worth of drugs to Devon and took back large quantities of cash.
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O’Neill, aged 35, of Canute Street, Partington, Manchester, and Williams, aged 29, of Partington, both admitted conspiracy to supply class A drugs. O’Neill was jailed for six years and three months and Williams for four years and six months.
Ashley Duhaney, aged 35, of Lock Lane, Manchester, admitted possession with intent to supply and possession of extreme pornography and was jailed for four years and ten months.
Samuel Allen, aged 29, was jailed for seven and a half years at an earlier hearing after admitting the same conspiracy and another drug dealing case.
Judge Timothy Rose told them: “This was a substantial, very meaningful and very destructive county lines operation which wreaked havoc on local communities.
“You exploited others who were drawn into your operation and you caused a great deal of misery and mayhem. You were driven by just one consideration, and that was money.”
Joss Ticehurst, prosecuting, said the conspiracy lasted between April and August 2019 and the gang first came to the attention of police because of their anti-social behaviour while cuckooing a wheelchair-bound addict in Southernhay, Exeter.
There were a total of four seizures of £11,000 drugs over the next four months, the final one being at the Southgate Mercure Hotel, where staff called police because of their unruliness.
They operated through a singe phone line called Manc P or Black P which was normally in the hands of O’Neill, or his lieutenant Williams.
The number of delivery trips and text advertisements suggested they had sold at least a kilo of drugs over four months.
All the defendants and the couriers claimed to be innocent holidaymakers whenever they were questioned by police.
Duhaney and Allen had also been caught dealing in a linked operation called Manc Todd in late 2018, when police found videos on Duhaney’s phone of a woman having sex with a dog and a man having sex with a goat.
Dominic Thomas, for O’Neill, and Rachel Smith, for Williams, said they had both stayed out of trouble, found work and started families in the time the case has taken to come to court.
Will Durrands, for Duhaney, said the pornography had been sent to him unsolicited and he had not had a chance to delete them. He has three young sons who will miss him while in prison.