Eight man have been sentenced to a total of 34 years in prison for money laundering and conspiring to supply large quantities of cannabis in north Staffordshire.
Birmingham Crown Court heard that in two separate stops and searches on the M6 in 2014, detectives seized £113,190 in cash and 410 bars of cannabis resin weighing 100kg with a street value of £442,800.
The groups, based in North Staffordshire, the West Midlands and Manchester, were part of a conspiracy to sell cannabis in north Staffordshire during the latter part of 2014.
Seven of the men sentenced yesterday (June 26) had pleading guilty at an earlier hearing, whilst the eighth, was found guilty of conspiring to supply cannabis after a trial lasting eight weeks.
Staffordshire Police’s Major and Organised Crime department carried out an investigation into drug dealing activity in the north of the county and gathered intelligence on a north Staffordshire / south Cheshire organised crime group led by Richard Coates, which was conspiring with a group in Manchester led by James McDonagh, and also a West Midlands-based group.
In order to frustrate law enforcement, the group had simultaneous use of a number of different mobile phones and frequently changed the mobile phones that they were using to contact each other. Members of the different groups would meet in clandestine locations in a further attempt to hide their activities.
The court heard that 36-year-old Coates did not have any hands-on involvement, but arranged for others to conduct criminal activity on his behalf, including movement of large amounts of money, collection and storage of drugs, and the export of class-C steroids to Spain.
Troy Chalmers, aged 33, and Daniel Slater, aged 43, acted as Coates’ deputies, with Slater and Chalmers sending money to an associate in Spain. Another member of the group, Martin Conlon, aged 33, acted as a courier driving to locations across the UK.
On 23 November 2014 Conlon was acting as a courier for Coates when he was stopped by police at junction 14 on the M6 on his way to visit Stuart Lott in the West Midlands. Officers found £113,190 in cash in his van.
Following this Godfrey McClean stored drugs on behalf of Coates and assisted Kevin Ward in their collection. Troy Chalmers helped with transportation and communication, particularly when OCG members discarded their phones in panic following arrests. James McDonagh, the head of the Manchester-based group, arranged for Kevin Ward to collect a consignment of drugs from Godfrey McClean.
On 6 December 2014 Ward was stopped on the M6 and 100kg of cannabis resin with a street value of £442,800 was discovered in his van.
When arrested in March 2015 Coates was in possession of a PIN-locked encrypted communication device to which he refused to give the access code. In the first prosecution of its kind in Staffordshire Coates was charged with an offence of failing to provide police with the access code to his communication device.
The sentences handed out were:
- Richard Coates, aged 36, of Brakespeare Street, Stoke-on-Trent, was guilty of conspiracy to supply cannabis, money laundering, exporting Class C drugs and failing to provide his PIN code. He was sentenced to 6 years 2 months.
- Daniel Slater, aged 43, of Hornby Drive, Congleton, Cheshire, was guilty of conspiracy to supply cannabis, money laundering and supplying Class C drugs. He was sentenced to 4 years 4 months.
- Troy Chalmers, aged 33, of Liverpool Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme, was guilty of conspiracy to supply cannabis and money laundering. He was sentenced to 5 years.
- Martin Conlon, aged 33, of Glebedale Road, Stoke-on-Trent, was guilty of conspiracy to supply cannabis and money laundering. He was sentenced to 3 years 4 months.
- Godfrey McClean, aged 57 years, of Abercorn Street, Stoke-on-Trent, was was guilty of conspiracy to supply cannabis and possession of cannabis. He was sentenced to 3 years.
- James McDonagh, aged 51, of Navigation Inn, Bourdon Street, Manchester, was guilty of conspiracy to supply cannabis, possession of Class A and B drugs. He was sentenced to 6 years 9 months.
- Stuart Lott, aged 35, of Windrush Close, Solihull, West Midlands, was guilty of conspiracy to supply cannabis, money laundering, possession of Class B drug with intent to supply and failing to provide PIN cide to his communication device. He was sentenced to 4 years 10 months.
- Kevin Ward, aged 60, of Croom Walk, Miles Platting, Manchester, was sentenced at an earlier hearing at Chester Crown Court to 12 months’ imprisonment and £100 fine.
Detective Inspector Pete Cooke, of Staffordshire Police’s Major Crimes department, said: “These men played a significant role in fuelling drug crime across north Staffordshire and we’re glad to see them behind bars.
“We’re committed to tackling drug crime in Staffordshire and protecting our communities as part of Operation Nemesis.
"This is a reflection of the hard work and persistence of our officers in bringing this case and I hope it serves as a clear warning to those who think they can commit drug crime in Staffordshire - you will be caught and dealt with. Such criminal activity will not be tolerated.”