A drug dealer who was spotted dealing in Brighton has been jailed for more than three years at Hove Crown Court.
Thomas Kekurah, 26, a business studies university student, of New Steine, Brighton, was seen dealing in the St James’s Street area of Brighton in February 2020.
Robin Griffiths, prosecuting, said that police officers saw Kekurah with “a well-known drug use, Andrea Thorne”.
They arrested Thorne and searched her flat at Gullivers Hotel, in New Steine, where they found Kekurah in the bathroom “with his jeans down”.
Mr Griffiths said: “Their suspicion was that he was trying to dispose of drugs in his possession.”
Kekurah had more than 6 grams of heroin and 1.65g of crack cocaine with a street value of about £800 as well as more than £400 in cash.
He had tried to hide some of the drugs under his tongue.
He was also found with a “county lines” phone, known as the “Zeus” line, with 159 contact numbers on it, including Thorne’s, and 152 messages, of which 100 were “mass marketing”.
Kekurah pleaded guilty to two counts of having class A drugs with intent to supply on the basis that he had a “lesser” role – a basis that the court did not accept.
Judge Jeremy Gold said that a “runner” – someone making the final delivery at street level – could be considered to have a “lesser” role.
Those entrusted with the amount of drugs and cash in Kekurah’s possession, as well as the “county line” phone, would be deemed to have a “significant” role
The judge added: “Transportation of drugs to the coast and possession of the ‘county line’ telephone in no way seems like a lesser category.”
Alexandra Monaghan, defending, said: “Mr Kekurah was recruited to sell class A drugs at the age of 22 because of a drugs debt.
“He was in a desperate situation. This was not his debt. It was a debt belonging to his father.
“He was introduced to someone who offered him £100 a day to sell drugs in Brighton. He was driven to the station and put on the train.”
Miss Monaghan said that Kekurah was recruited in London and exploited because of his age, immaturity and naivety.
His only previous conviction was for robbery and attempted robbery in 2014 when he was 17 years old. He was given a youth rehabilitation order.
Miss Monaghan said: “He is a very small cog in a big machine, being paid a measly £100 a day to do somebody else’s dirty work.
“He was acting under direction at all times. This line (the Zeus line) did not belong to him. They were not his contacts on that phone. It was not his phone.”
She said that he was due to start the third and final year of his degree and had been working in a foreign exchange business and delivering shoes for a shoe cleaning business.
He had stayed out of trouble since his arrest and was helping his mother to care for his elderly grandmother, who had had a stroke, with his mother due to return to Sierra Leone.
While awaiting sentence, he was ordered to live and sleep at Chute House, in Stockwell Park Road, Brixton, south London, as part of his bail conditions.
Miss Monaghan said: “He is someone who shows promise and has taken great steps away from the situation that he found himself in.
“He was 22 at the time of the offence and he is 25 now. RAR (rehabilitation activity requirement) and unpaid work would be a better solution than immediate custody.”
Judge Gold said: “There needs to be a very clear understanding for those who are tempted to involve themselves in county line distribution that custody is inevitable except in the most exceptional circumstances.”
The judge told Kekurah: “You were in a trusted position, being entrusted with a considerable quantity of drugs and the county line phone.”
He sentenced Kekurah to 40 months in prison and ordered the forfeiture of the cash and the phone and the forfeiture and destruction of the drugs.
At a previous hearing at Lewes Crown Court, Judge Gold gave Thorne a 12-month conditional discharge.
Earlier this year, a Hove teenager was jailed after being caught running the “Zeus” county line during a specialist police operation.
Jake de Moor, 19, of Sackville Road, Hove, was found to be the controller of the “Zeus” line which had been operating in Brighton and Hove since 2018.
He was one of 64 people held since the start of a crackdown on “county line” drug dealing in Brighton and Hove, known as Operation Extreme.
De Moor was caught with the dealing phone – and its number was the same as that found on the mobile phones of drug death victims and known drug users.
After he was stopped in November last year, Sussex Police said that he admitted having just swallowed nine wraps of class A drugs.
A search of his home found 73 wraps of crack cocaine, 41 wraps of heroin, £1,045 in cash and some cannabis.
He pleaded guilty to having heroin and crack cocaine with intent to supply, money laundering and having cannabis.
De Moor was sentenced to two years and four months in prison.
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