A drugs gang based in the Brighton and Bristol areas have been jailed for a total of 30 years, Avon and Somerset Police said.
Daniel Newman, 34, of Brambletyne Avenue, Saltdean, was jailed for seven and a half years at Lewes Crown Court by Judge Christine Laing, the honorary recorder of Brighton and Hove.
She jailed Ryan Caplin, 26, of Kingsway, Hove, for three years and four months, and Harrison Beesley, 34, of King’s Drive, Eastbourne, was jailed for eight years and eight months.
They were sentenced at the end of October – and last Friday (25 November) Recorder Adam Vaitilingam sentenced two others at Bristol Crown Court.
He jailed James Marshall, 33, of Seymour Road, Staple Hill, for six years and nine months, and Scott Ryan, 37, of Albany Street, Kingswood, for four years.
Avon and Somerset Police said: “Five men who used an encrypted messaging service to discuss importing and transporting vast quantities of drugs have been jailed for more than 30 years collectively.
“Three men from Sussex and two from Bristol and South Gloucestershire have been sentenced after a police operation uncovered they were using the EncroChat network to move ketamine across the country.
“Avon and Somerset Police became aware of the organised crime group – made up of Daniel Newman, Harrison Beesley, Ryan Caplin, James Marshall and Scott Ryan – and months of surveillance and other investigative enquiries were carried out before apprehending them all.
“Messages on the EncroChat platform were obtained by police which showed the high-value deals were arranged over several months in 2020. The messages included discussions about multiple six-figure drug deals.
“Surveillance work was carried out and evidence was obtained showing Ryan would drive across the country as part of the group’s efforts to transport drugs.
“A proactive police operation was conducted in Bristol on Wednesday 16 Mach and Thursday 17 March this year where Ryan was stopped in his van and Marshall was arrested at a Bristol pub by Avon and Somerset Police officers.
“The van was searched, and police seized several packages containing ketamine, with an estimated street value of £168,000. Mobile phones and approximately £6,000 in cash were also seized.
“Warrants were later carried out at Ryan’s home in Kingswood and at a lock-up in Warmley were almost £8,000 in cash and more ketamine was seized.
“The three men from Sussex were arrested two months later.
“Newman and Beesley were jointly charged with three counts of conspiracy to supply class B drugs (ketamine and cannabis) and one count of conspiracy to transfer criminal property. Caplin was charged with conspiracy to transfer criminal property and a second of conspiracy to supply ketamine as well. They pleaded guilty to all charges and were sentenced at Lewes Crown Court on Friday 28 October.
“Marshall and Ryan pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply ketamine and possession with intent to supply the same class B drug. They also both admitted conspiracy to transfer criminal property.
“Ryan also admitted three further offences, namely possession of an offensive weapon in a public place and two counts of possessing criminal property. Both were sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on Friday 25 November.”
Recorder Adam Vaitilingam, addressing the pair, said: “You were both involved in an organised crime group directing and supplying ketamine on a commercial scale.”
A timeline was set for confiscation proceedings with a hearing planned for next year.
Detective Sergeant Jason Chidgey said: “We welcome the strong sentences handed out to these five men and hope it sends a loud message to anyone involved in the supply of illegal drugs.
“These results come off the back of a complex and lengthy investigation and show that police and other law-enforcement agencies are steadfast in their determination to bring down organised crime groups who cause misery in local communities”
“Crime doesn’t pay. It may be a well-used phrase, but it still holds true and these five men have learned that lesson the hard way with these prison sentences and the future confiscation of assets they tried to accrue through their criminality.
“We are grateful for the support of the Crown Prosecution Service and other agencies in bringing these men to justice.”
CPS Senior Crown Prosecutor Stella Waata said: “The CPS and a specialist police team worked closely together on this complex case to disrupt the illegal activities of a criminal network and secure convictions.
“The group used an encrypted EncroChat messaging system to co-ordinate the supply of ketamine and cannabis between Bristol and Brighton. The investigation by Avon and Somerset Police was supported by the CPS South West Complex Casework Unit, and together we built a compelling case which resulted in all the defendants pleading guilty.
“The illegal trade in drugs blights communities across the South West. The CPS is committed to working with our partners in the police to dismantle organised criminal groups and bring them to justice.”
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