South Tyneside crime ring teamed up with Merseyside gang to ship drugs across UK
A criminal gang used an electronically operated trap door hidden inside a white van to transport large quantities of high purity drugs across the UK.
The group used another vehicle, equipped with a heavy duty boot-liner hidden under a pile of tools, to move around tens of thousands of pounds in criminal cash.
Newcastle Crown Court heard a drugs ring based in South Tyneside had joined forces with an organised crime gang in Merseyside to ship cocaine and amphetamine into the North East of England.
During a 22 week trial, drugs lynchpin John Allcock and his associates denied their roles in the conspiracy, which saw detectives monitor and close in on their underground operation between January 10, 2017 and May 31, 2018.
As a result of the investigation, officers seized more than £120,000 cash, 65 kilos of cannabis and mixing agents, as well as Class A drugs.
During the complex police operation, which was launched by officers from the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU), Allcock and his trusted lieutenant Carl McAlindon were monitored as they ran their illicit business, buying and sourcing drugs from members of the North West organised criminal group.
Allcock would regularly travel to Liverpool and Manchester to meet with associates and was observed visiting an industrial unit which the group had access to, suspected to have been used to store large quantities of amphetamine, which he later bought and employed couriers to distribute.
The men attempted to evade detection by conducting shady face-to-face business meetings, as well as via encrypted devices and also used a number of tactics to frustrate police activity.
After a lengthy period of surveillance on the group, officers made their first move and arrested Liverpool-based courier Paul Marrow on September 15, 2017, on the A1 in Durham.
With the assistance of a drugs dog, a hidden electronically operated compartment complete with a trap door was found inside his white van andcontained a block of high purity cocaine worth around £180,000.
Two months later, further enquiries saw the recovery of almost £50,000 in cash after a targeted vehicle stop in Lincolnshire.
A search of the van revealed the cash secreted beneath a fixed, heavy-duty boot-liner under a pile of tools.
The takedown of the group continued into 2018 when officers arrested two more couriers, Baber Azim and Glen Stoddart.
Azim was intercepted as he travelled through the Cleveland Police area in possession of cash and a kilo of cocaine.
Stoddart was caught in Swansea having travelled there with £250,000 worth of cannabis and later collected £21,250 in cash.
Allcock, who was residing in Spain, was later arrested with the help of the National Crime Agency in a final swoop by officers determined to bring theillegal operation to an end.
The entire group were subsequently arrested and charged with a string of drugs and money laundering offences.
And following a trial lasting more than four months, jurors convicted those involved.
John Allcock, 52, of Hillmeadows, Willington, County Durham was found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs and money laundering. Carl McAlindon, 36, of Abbey Road, Jarrow, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs and money laundering. Bernard Sewell, 41, of Roman Road, Jarrow, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class B drugs but found not guilty of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. Mark Hiscock, 46, of Cheviot Road, South Shields, was found guilty of money laundering but found not guilty of conspiracy to supply Class B drugs. David McFarlane, 53 of Hadrian Road, Jarrow was found guilty of money laundering but found not guilty of conspiracy to Supply Class B drugs. Glen Stoddart, 53, of Mariners Point, Hartlepool, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class B drugs, money laundering and participating in activities of an Organised Crime Group. During the trial, two men admitted their guilt. Paul Marrow, 62, of Rainford Road, Dentons Green, St. Helens, Merseyside, admitted conspiracy to supply Class A drugs Baber Azim, 43, of Kendridge Road, Slouth, Berkshire, admitted conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and money laundering. Speaking at the end of the trial, Detective Inspector Steve Pescod said: “I hope this case send a strong message to anyone who thinks they can turn a profit from supplying illegal, harmful substances in our towns and cities. “Allcock ran a sophisticated and significant operation worth millions of pounds, which, thanks to the hard work and dedication of officers has now been shut down, and the proceeds seized. “Thanks to this investigation, members of two organised crime groups, ranging from couriers to those leading the businesses were brought before the courts and held accountable for their shameless and despicable offending. "I am pleased the jury have found them guilty and look forward to seeing what sentences are handed down, as these convictions undoubtedly make our region a better place. “These men were brazen offenders who were working together to maximise profits,without a care for the vulnerable people caught up in their activity. "Not only did they hide what they were doing through the use of encrypted phones and swapping sim cards, but also denied their roles before a court and refused to accept blame and take responsibility." The group will be sentenced at a later date at the same court. Judge Tim Gittins told those convicted at the end of the trial: "It is likely that sentence of imprisonment, some of some length, will follow."