A man has denied being second in command of a large cocaine supply ring.
Christian Winter 50, of Osborne Avenue, South Shields, is alleged to have looked after dealing operations while the head of the gang was abroad.
Winter is on trial with six other men and women accused dealing cocaine from a network of ‘safe houses’ in Sunderland, South Shields and Houghton.
Winter denies conspiracy to supply class A drugs between March 2014 and June 2015.
Ian Ramshaw, 32, of Cambridge Road, Silksworth, Sunderland; Andrew Blake, 40, of Regent Court, South Hetton; David Murphy, 38 of Avonmouth Road, Farringdon, Sunderland; and Michael Murphy, 63, and Margaret Murphy, 61, both of Fletcher Crescent, New Herrington, also deny the same charges
The Murphys also deny conspiracy to supply class B drugs.
Thomas Blake, 77, of Jubilee Square, South Hetton, denies converting criminal property.
A jury at Teesside Crown Court heard paraphernalia was found at Winter’s house in South Shields, and at another house in Carlton Crescent in Farringdon, Sunderland, to which he was a regular visitor.
Among the items found in Winter’s house was a hydraulic press, scales, and 1.2kg of boric acid, commonly used to ‘bulk out’ cocaine, and £4,380 in cash, and some Borax, a crystal form of boric acid.
Winter told the jury: “I used the hydraulic press to fix a wheel bearing on my car, the boric acid was dropped off by someone who never returned to collect it and the cash, you could say, was my life savings.
“I was working selling roller shutter doors at the time, and if the customer paid in cash, we got paid in cash. I had also just sold a carfor £2,000.”
Winter told the jury he used small amounts of cocaine ‘recreationally’ and the scales were to check what he was getting.
He added: “The Borax is an old-fashioned cleaning product. I had a problem with red ants at the time and I’d read somewhere the Borax would be good for that.”
The jury heard undercover police observed Winter making regular visits to the house in Carlton Crescent, which prosecutors allege was another safe house used to ‘bash out’ cocaine for street sale.
The occupier of the house, Victoria Harding, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
Winter told the jury he visited the house because he was interested in starting a relationship with Ms Harding.
He said: “I was aware of drugs at the house, I occasionally took some for my own use.”
Prosecutors claim that when the head of the conspiracy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was abroad, that Winter’s contact with Ms Harding increased.
“You were taking care of business while he was away, weren’t you?” Winter was asked by Peter Makepeace QC, prosecuting.
“That is simply not true,” said Winter.