South Shields man found with more than £1100,000 in his car denies being part of major North East drugs gang
A South Shields man stopped by police with more than £110,000 in cash in his car has denied being part of a drugs ring supplying cocaine across the North East.
Darren Gates, 49, of Chaucer Avenue, Biddick Hall, is one of eight defendants on trial charged with conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of Class A between 2015 and 2016.
He is charged alongside Gary Mitchell, 42, of Pinedale Drive, South Hetton: Stephen Horner, 24, of Frederick Terrace, South Hetton; Christopher Hickson, 35, of Gloucester Terrace, Haswell; Dean Pringle, 34, of Little Eden, Peterlee; Alan Baines, 23, of Meryl Gardens, Hartlepool, Graham Wilding, 33, of Warren Road, Hartlepool, and an eighth man, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
A trial at Teesside Crown Court heard the arrests followed a Durham Constabulary investigation, Operation Ebony.
Matthew Bean, prosecuting, said Mitchell had been the ring-leader and had regular meetings with Gates.
Mr Bean said: “The prosecution says the evidence suggests he was involved in moving quantities of cocaine and cash.”
The pair had met nine times the court heard. Mr Bean said: “On each of the days, a similar pattern of events takes place.
“Gary Mitchell and Darren Gates would exchange a series of calls. They would then both travel to the same approximate area of County Durham.
“On each of the nine days, when Gary Mitchell and Darren Gates met, there would be contact between Gary Mitchell and Alan Baines.
A car driven by Gates and stopped by police in October 2015 was found to contain ‘in excess of £110,000’.
“This was the proceeds of the conspiracy,” said Mr Bean.
He told the jury: “The business of buying and selling drugs IS a business, albeit an illegal one. Like any other business, an organisation set up to buy and sell drugs has a structure.
“There will be people in the organisation who provide leadership and direction. Below those providing direction, there are those who are involved in managing the business on a day-to-day basis and those who are involved in meeting the buyer or receiving it from the supplier.
“The prosecution says the defendant Gary Mitchell played the lead role in organising this conspiracy. The prosecution says the conspiracy centred around South Hetton and a number of other villages, including Haswell and Haswell Plough.”
Mitchell had admitted using two phones, but denied others used to contact co-defendants were his: “Gary Mitchell can be shown to have been in regular telephone contact with a number of other members of the conspiracy,” said Mr Bean.
“Police surveillance evidence will show he also regularly met with them. The prosecution say this telephone evidence and the meetings can both be linked back to the on-going conspiracy.
“The prosecution says Christopher Hickson and Stephen Horner helped Gary Mitchell.
“They have lived in or can be linked to Gloucester Terrace in Haswell Plough. Christopher Hickson can be linked to an allotment in Haswell Plough which the prosecution says is somewhere used to store cocaine and cash.”
Wilding, Baines and Bate had been the gang’s Hartlepool arm, the prosecution alleges.
Dean Pringle had been in regular contact with Mitchell and had been pulled over by police after driving to Haswell Plough.
“Police officers recovered a packet from the roadside, near where the car had been stopped, containing more than £35,000 worth of cocaine, that the prosecution say had been thrown from the vehicle,” said Mr Bean.
Three men have already been convicted in connection with the case.
They are; Ryan Gilling, 29, of Manor House Estate, Hutton Henry, who admitted supplying cocaine; Liam Bate, 30, of Tenby Walk, Throston, Hartlepool, and Neil Dodsworth, 28, of Queensway, Shildon, who both admitted possession of cocaine with intent to supply.
The trial continues.