Eight members of a drugs gang who were caught with cocaine and cannabis worth a combined £5.2m have been jailed for a total of 68 years and seven months.
The Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) carried out a large scale investigation into the shipment and distribution of the drugs from Essex across the eastern region in 2014.
In total ERSOU recovered 3.69 tonnes of cannabis resin worth £4.6m on a furniture lorry, along with two seizures of cocaine with an estimated street value of £600,000.
Eight of the 11 men convicted of roles within the organised gang were sentenced this week.
Officers initially stopped a taxi in Braintee, Essex, on 30 September 2014 and discovered 1kg of cocaine with a purity of 75 per cent in a laptop bag. Darren Mullarkey, 26, was the sole passenger in the vehicle and was arrested.
Detectives were able to link Mullarkey, of Earlsferry Way, North London, to Luke Jewitt, 30, of The Oak, Chapel Hill, Braintree, Essex, Louis Dibra, 32, of Juniper Close, Halstead, Essex, and Robert Strachan, 38, of Parkhurst Road, North London.
Then on 10 October, 3.69 tonnes of cannabis resin was seized from the trailer of a lorry at Temple Wood Industrial Estate in Essex. It had travelled from Malaga, Spain, and the drugs were found concealed in 187 boxes hidden behind low-quality furniture.
Five men were arrested – two were associates of Thomas Aldridge, 31, of Woodlands Park Drive, Great Dunmow, Essex, who had connections with Xpert Storage where the drugs were seized.
The men were released after enquiries confirmed they were not aware of the drugs. Investigations revealed there had been 10 previous deliveries to the site.
Then, on 20 November 2014 Patrick Carroll, 31, of Templar Road, Braintree, Essex, and Barry Murphy, 57, of Perryfields, Braintree, Essex, were arrested outside The Kicking Dickey pub in Dunmow. Officers discovered 2kg of cocaine and a total of £44,000 in cash.
Carroll is Aldridge s brother-in-law and was also linked to Dibra, Nderim Muliu, 24, of Cressing Road, Braintree, Essex, Stephen Chambers, 45, of Warmdene Road, Brighton, and Mark Hastie, 47, of Halleys Way, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, through phone records.
Aldridge, Jewitt, Dibra, Chambers, Hastie, Muliu, Strachan and Mallarkey were sentenced to a total of 68 years and seven months at St Albans Crown Court on Tuesday (12 July).
Carroll, Murphy and Aston Walker had been previously jailed in 2014 and 2015 for a total of 16 years and four months. Full details of sentences and convictions below.
Detective Sergeant Daren Guess from ERSOU said: “This was a sophisticated drugs importation and distribution network which had the potential to flood the eastern region with cocaine and cannabis.
“This case once again shows the determination ERSOU has in dismantling organised crime groups who spread fear and misery through our communities.
“The sentences also show how serious the courts take such offending and should serve as a stark warning to anyone involved in such criminality.”
The following five men were sentenced on Tuesday – all had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine:
– Thomas Aldridge, 31, of Woodlands Park Drive, Great Dunmow, Essex, was jailed for a total of 11 years and three months. He also admitted evasion of prohibition on the importation of 3.69 tonnes of cannabis resin
– Louis Dibra , 32, of Juniper Close, Halstead, Essex, was sentenced to nine years
– Robert Strachan, 38, of Parkhurst Road, North London, was jailed for five years and four months
– Nderim Muliu, 24, of Cressing Road, Braintree, Essex, was sentenced to six years and eight months. He also admitted possessing a fraudulent document
– Darren Mallarkey, 26, of Earlsferry Way, North London, was sentenced to three years and four months
The following three also sentenced on Tuesday. They were convicted of conspiracy to supply cocaine following a trial:
– Luke Jewitt, 30, of The Oak, Chapel Hill, Braintree, Essex, was jailed for 10 years
– Mark Hastie, 47, of Halleys Way, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, was jailed for 11 years
– Stephen Chambers, 45, of Warmdene Road, Brighton, was sentenced to 12 years
Previously jailed were: Patrick Carroll, 31, of Templar Road, Braintree, Essex (six years); Barry Murphy, 57, of Perryfields, Braintree, Essex (five years and four months) and Aston Walker, 34, of Chelmsford Road, South Woodford, Essex (five years). Walker had been arrested after police discovered 1.2kg cocaine hidden in the dashboard of a car he was driving in Upminster in October 2014.
All three had pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to supply. Carroll was also convicted of possessing criminal property while Murphy admitted possessing cannabis.