South Shields man accused of being part of drugs gang had Â£110,000 cash in his car
A South Shields man accused of being part of a cocaine dealing ring was found with Â£110,000 in cash in the footwell of his car.
Teesside Crown Court heard that the cash found in a Ford Galaxy driven by Darren Gates was found to be contaminated with the drug - suggesting it had been used in drug dealing.
Gates, 48, of Chaucer Avenue, South Shields, denies conspiracy to supply class A drugs between August 2015 and July 2016.
He is one of eight men on trial accused of being involved in an operation alleged to have been based in South Hetton and the surrounding villages, but spreading as far south as Hartlepool and to South Shields.
The court heard arrests were made after months of surveillance by Durham Constabulary.
Prosecutors allege the ringleader was 41-year-old Gary Mitchell of South Hetton, assisted by Steven Horner and Christopher Hickson, who both lived in nearby Haswell, County Durham.
Matthew Bean, prosecuting, said; “Cocaine dealing is a business and has to be imported before being distributed down the chain.
“We say Gary Mitchelll played a leading role, assisted by Hickson and Horner. There was Darren Gates in South Shields.
“To the south was Dean Pringle in Peterlee, and further south, there was Graham Wilding and Alan Baines, both in Hartlepool.
“We say those men were involved in the buying and selling of cocaine, and the transfer of cash.”
Mr Bean added: “After his arrest, there was a series of calls to Gates from a phone we say was linked to Mitchell. Later in the day there was a text asking Gates if he was still alive.
“We say Mitchell was concerned about what was happening to Gates and the cash. Gates, being in custody, was unable to respond to any messages.
“The level of cocaine contamination was higher than on notes in general circulation. This suggests the notes had been used in drug dealing.”
In addition to Gates, the following each deny conspiracy to supply class A drugs between August 2015 and July 2016.
Gary Mitchell, 41, of Pinedale, South Hetton; Steven Horner, 23, of Frederick Terrace, South Hetton; Christopher Hickson, 34, of Gloucester Terrace, Haswell; Dean Pringle, 34, of Little Eden, Peterlee; Graham Wilding, 32, of Warren Road, Hartlepool; and Alan Baines, 32, of Stockton Road, Hartlepool.
A Sunderland man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, denies the same charge.