A man from Burton Latimer has been jailed for 20 years his part in trafficking drugs with a street value of up to £1.3 million.
Joseph O’Neill, 36, of Jacques Road, Burton Latimer, was the leader of a Northamptonshire gang which linked up with others in Cambridgeshire and Hampshire.
The groups trafficked the Class A drugs between Northampton and the south coast.
Nine members of the various gangs received a combined total of 100 years’ imprisonment at a hearing at Leicester Crown Court this week.
An estimated 28kg of cocaine was trafficked more than 160 miles across England over a two-year-period.
O’Neill and his second-in-command Sean Byrne, 48, of Purser Road, Northampton, who was jailed for 15 years, sourced high purity cocaine from Cambridgeshire-based criminals including Paul Wesley, who received 18 years.
O’Neill, Byrne and Wesley were convicted of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs following a nine-week trial at Leicester Crown Court in October and November last year.
A network of couriers then took the drug to Southampton and sold it to members of an organised crime group based in Hampshire. It is believed the round trip of around 220 miles was made on 158 occasions.
Three police forces initially launched separate investigations into the activity before the probes were linked by Northamptonshire Police and passed to the East Midlands Special Operations Unit to lead under the operational name of Vanguard.
Approximately 50 search warrants were executed and 40 people arrested during operations in 2012. Of the 40 arrested, 16 would go on to plead guilty to charges of conspiring to supply class A drugs.
Another six people initially denied the offence, but two of them changed their plea to guilty before the trial began and a third later admitted to being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs.
Cyrus Kazak, 49, of Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire, who was also described as being instrumental in providing the high-purity cocaine to O’Neill’s group, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing. He received a sentence of 12 and a half years, having also admitted possession of ecstasy (MDMA) with intent to supply and also one count of supplying ecstasy.
Five more men who had helped O’Neill to distribute the drugs were sentenced on Thursday, having already pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge.
Michael Wilson, previously of Cricketers Green, Weldon, near Corby, was given a seven and a half year sentence.
Micah Walfall, 29, previously of West Cotton Close, Northampton, was sentenced to ten years, as was John Monteith, 27, of Stockholm Close, Corby.
Adrian Dowling, 48, of High Street, Pitsford, was sentenced to six years for the drugs conspiracy, plus one to year to run consecutively after pleading guilty to producing fraudulent documentation.
Christopher Jones, 26, of Park Road, Hanslope, Milton Keynes, had also admitted one count each of supplying ecstasy, supplying cocaine and supplying cannabis in addition to the cocaine supply conspiracy. He was sentenced to five years.
A number of other defendants who have pleaded guilty to their part in the conspiracy will be sentenced in the coming weeks.
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Chf Insp Mark Brayfield, of the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, said: “This is, so far, a very satisfying outcome to a very long and complex investigation.
“I’m very grateful not only to my team in EMSOU but also to our colleagues in other forces and the Crown Prosecution Service, Complex Case Unit who ensured that we not only undertook successful enforcement operations, but gathered, presented and prepared substantial evidential material that subsequently resulted in the arrest, charge and conviction of the suspects.
“This case demonstrates that determined criminals will find markets for drugs wherever they can and will travel long distances to source and distribute drugs if they have to.
“Our job is to protect the public by identifying this activity and the offenders and then take action to gather evidence, make arrests and bring a strong case to court. We have to bide our time on occasion, but days like today make it all worthwhile and some very significant criminals from three different organised crime groups, and parts of England are now serving lengthy prison sentences as a result.”