Twenty members of a violent drugs gang sentenced to 185 years in jail | Knutsford Times

Twenty members of a violent drugs gang sentenced to 185 years in jail

By on January 19, 2019

Twenty members of a ruthless and sophisticated organised drugs gang have been jailed for a total of 185 years following a week-long sentencing hearing at Liverpool Crown Court.

Anthony Cullen was the ruthless ringleader of the gang that sold cocaine and cannabis across Liverpool, Cheshire and North Wales. He’s been jailed for 27 years today (18 1 2019). Another key member of the gang is still on the run.

The court heard that the gang had a stash of powerful weapons and ammunition that they used to intimidate rivals and force customers into repaying drugs debts.

They also hired out the weapons and supplied ammunition to others who wanted access to guns. Many of the weapons were found hidden in a house in Rylands Drive in Orford.

The weapons seizure was the biggest ever in Cheshire and included an AK series automatic assault rifle, revolvers and self-loading pistols as well as a silencer and over 100 bullets.

The sentencing brings to a successful conclusion a complicated case for the Crown Prosecution Service that involved two trials and 25 defendants.

12 defendants pleaded guilty to the charges against them. 8 were convicted after a trial. Four defendants were found not guilty and the case didn’t proceed against a further defendant.

The prosecution centred on the activities of the gang between October 2016 and August 2017 during which around 50 kg of cocaine was distributed.

In January last year, hundreds of police officers raided homes across Warrington as part of the crackdown on the drugs ring.

The gang members were caught following intelligence gathered by Cheshire Police and the tracking of the gang’s vehicles using number plate recognition technology.

The gang used numerous mobile phones to contact each other as well as customers being supplied wholesale quantities of drugs.  The data from these phones was also used to pin down their criminal activity.

Geoffrey Fryar of the Complex Casework Unit in Mersey Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service said: “Anthony Cullen was one of the key leaders of this highly organised and ruthless drugs gang.

“Initially the gang were supplying cocaine to people in Winsford, Warrington and North Wales. Anthony Cullen decided to switch to the supply and production of cannabis after a large quantity of Cocaine was seized from his gang by police.

“Cullen knew the investigation was closing in on him and considered fleeing the country. But instead, he switched tactics and started producing cannabis.

“Christopher Houghton was a close confidante of Anthony Cullen and a member of his inner circle. He was the “armourer” of the gang and responsible for the weapons, most of which were hidden in the loft of a house on Rylands Drive in Orford.

“Those weapons included automatic rifles and pistols and a stash of live ammunition. Anthony Cullen was in charge of who used the weapons, where and what for.

“Lists were found of those who owed the gang money for drugs and the weapons were used to intimidate them into paying up. They were also used to intimidate anyone who crossed them.

“There was evidence that Cullen paid his “employees” wages.  Trusted members of the gang were provided with cars and accommodation.  The bill for ‘wages’ and rent on places to store drugs ran to £50,000 per month.

“Bringing these men to justice has involved months of work by the Crown Prosecution Service, working closely with Cheshire Police. The sheer number of defendants meant that there had to be two trials and the sentencing hearing lasted a week.

“That hard work has paid off and a sophisticated criminal group has now been stopped and its members have all been jailed, many for a long time.”

Anthony Cullen, 31, of Colemere Close in Padgate pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs and conspiracy to produce class B drugs.  He was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to possess prohibited weapons, conspiracy to possess prohibited weapons for sale or transfer and conspiracy to possess ammunition.  He has been sentenced to 27 years in jail.

Robert Bibby, 28, of HMP Haverigg, has been sentenced to 7 years and 11 months in jail,  after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs and conspiracy to produce class B drugs.

Chris Houghton, 40, of HMP Altcourse, has been sentenced to 20 years in jail after being convicted by a jury of conspiracy to supply class A drugs, and pleading guilty conspiracy to possess prohibited weapons, conspiracy to possess prohibited weapons for sale or transfer and conspiracy to possess ammunition.

Gary White, 31, of Stanbridge Close, Warrington, has been sentenced to 6 years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Christopher Larosa, 29, of Dover Road, Warrington, was found guilty by a jury of conspiracy  to supply class A drugs and being concerned in the supply of cannabis. He has been sentenced to 12 years.

Nigel Gerke, 49, of Monks Place, Warrington, has been sentenced to 10 years in jail after being found guilty by a jury of conspiracy to supply class A drugs and pleading guilty to conspiracy to produce class B drugs.

Thomas Hill, 29, of Pinewood Avenue, Warrington, has been sentenced to 7 years and 10 months, after pleading guilty part way through his trial for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Jason Eastens, 34, of Hall Road, Warrington, has been sentenced to 13 years, having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess prohibited weapons and conspiracy to possess prohibited weapons for sale or transfer, offering to supply class A drugs and offering to supply class B drugs.  He was convicted by a jury of the conspiracy to possess ammunition.

Sean Ryan, 32, of Aquarium Street, Rhyl, has been sentenced to 5 years and 2 months, after being found guilty by a jury of conspiracy to possess ammunition and pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs and production of class B drugs.

Michael Mason aka Hanson, 29, of HMP Northumbria, has been sentenced to 13 years and 8 months, having pleaded guilty part way through his trial to conspiracy to possess prohibited weapons and conspiracy to possess prohibited weapons for sale or transfer and was found guilty by a jury of the conspiracy to possess ammunition.

Liam King, 25 of Digmore Close, Kirkby, has been sentenced to 5 years and 4 months, having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Matthew Spencer, 40, Peasley Close, Warrington,  has been sentenced to 6 years, having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Sami Hajri , 22, of Calgarth Road, Warrington, has been sentenced to 8 years and four months,  having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Dylan McGann, 22 of Gorsey Lane, Warrington, has been sentenced to 5 years and 10 months,  having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs and conspiracy to produce cannabis.

Joshua Mercer, 23 of Sandy Lane West, Warrington, has been sentenced to3 years and 8 months,  having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Christopher Potter, 31 of Southworth Avenue, Warrington, has been sentenced to 4 years and 11 months,  having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs and producing cannabis.

Scott Quinn, 22, of Ireland Street, Warrington, has been sentenced to 4 years, having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Stephen Wood, 32 of Firtree Close, Winsford, has been sentenced to 8 years and 6 months,  having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Andrew John McElligott, 43, Nixon Drive, Winsford has been sentenced to 9 years and 6 months,  having been found guilty by a jury of conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Steven Cowell, 31, of Maes Isalaw, Bangor, has been sentenced to 6 years and 8 months,  having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

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