Gangs who 'shamelessly' used vulnerable children to 'flood' Lancashire with drugs jailed for almost 70 years
Two organised crime groups who exploited children into selling Class A drugs in Accrington have been jailed for a combined total of more than 60 years.
One woman and 15 men will spend a total of 68 years and six months in prison, with seven more gang members handed suspended sentences and provision orders.
Another 32-year-old man has been charged in relation to the same crimes but is still at large with police issuing a warrant for his arrest.
The convictions represent the conclusion of a three year operation into the supply of heroin and crack cocaine by two groups operating in Accrington.
Investigating officer DC Insp Tim Brown said the criminals involved thought of themselves as "untouchable".
These OCGs, led by Amar Hussain and Sohail Khan deliberately targeted and shamelessly exploited some of the most vulnerable members of society for their own financial gain," he added.
These individuals thought they were untouchable and believed they could go on making the lives of their victims, and the many residents who were forced to live their law-abiding lives around them, a misery forever."
"I welcome the sentences handed out to the members of this gang, particularly those for Amar Hussain and Sohail Khan, and I hope it sends a clear message that Lancashire Constabulary and its partner agencies will use all methods at their disposal to disrupt the work of organised criminals."
In November 2018, officers launched Operation Sark - a proactive investigation into the supply of heroin and crack cocaine in Accrington.
The operation focused on two organised crime groups (OCGs) known as the The General Line and The Flash Line.
The gangs were known to use violence against their rivals in order to claim territory.
The OCGs also targeted vulnerable boys in local authority accommodation and trained them to sell drugs.
The victims, who were as young as 16, were also ordered to store and package drugs from their accommodation.
As part of their enquiries, police identified The General Line OCG which was led by 30-year-old Amar Hussain.
The General Line - which was a telephone number people rang to buy Class A drug - was also linked to the 'Baz' and 'Taz' drugs lines that Hussain also ran.
Over a 170-day period up to May 2019, it is estimated those lines received 100 calls or texts per day, generating around £340,000 in cash from the sale of illicit substances.
Not only did Hussain buy drugs in bulk from Lancashire, West Yorkshire, and Greater Manchester, he also managed the phones that told street dealers where to deliver customer orders to.
Similar tactics were employed by the Flash Line OCG.
The General Line operated 24/7 and Hussain continued to run his operation while on trial at Preston Crown Court for an unrelated matter for which he was eventually acquitted.
His trusted right-hand man was 25-year-old Hmaad Bashir who answered the phones and told street dealers where to go.
Thomas Edwards, 24, played a similar role to Bashir in the conspiracy and his partner, 21-year-old Ella Smith, helped by taking phone calls to the dealer line, packaging drugs and letting the group use her home as a base.
18-year-old Brandon Wilson, 19-year-old Aleem Mahmood, 19-year-old Tyler O’Neill, 26-year-old Connor Coulburn, and 22-year-old Jacob Fisher, 30-year-old Naomi Winter, 18-year-old Stephan Milton and 30-year-old Nathan Walker occupied various roles within the OCG from organisers to street dealers.
Taxi driver Bilal Yousaf, 27, acted as a chauffeur and regularly provided transport for Hussain and Bashir while they were engaged in their drug-dealing activities.
The Flash Line, which also operated 24/7, was run by Sohail Khan and an associate, who directed dealers where to go while purchasing and selling drugs.
They often used violence to achieve their aims; on one occasion Sohail Khan boasted about slashing the hand of one of their dealers for stealing from him.
Among the hierarchy of The Flash Line was Iftikar Asghar, whose home at the time in Water Street, Accrington, was used as an operating base for the OCG.
Among those trusted to handle and retain large quantities of drugs and cash and dealer phones for the OCG were Marban Hussain, who also acted as a driver for the OCG, Bradley Ridsdale, and Colin Cardwell.
Operating as street dealers for The Flash Line were Jake Chambers, Michael Hall and Charles Wigglesworth.
During the investigation officers uncovered the illegal activities of Shayzul Miah, David Pye, and Martin Jackson, who were running their own individual dealer lines for significant personal gain.
Over recent months individuals charged as part of Operation Sark have been sentenced at Preston Crown Court, including six members of the Flash Line and Wigglesworth who were sentenced yesterday (August 17).
A warrant was issued for the arrest of Michael Hall who failed to attend the sentencing hearing.
All 24 defendants were charged with conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin.
The defendants who pleaded guilty were sentenced to the following:
- Amar Hussain, of Higher Antley Street, Accrington: eight years
- Sohail Kham, 24, of Clement Street, Accrington: eight years and three months
- Shayzul Miah, 31, of Fountain Street, Accrington: 58 months
- Thomas Edwards, of Dickens Road, Chorley: four years
- Hmaad Bashir, of Higher Antley Street, Accrington: seven years
- Connor Coulburn, of Dale Street, Bacup: four years
- Nathan Walker, of Milnshaw Lane, Accrington: four years
- David Pye, 43, of Leger Court, Accrington: 45 months
- Martin Jackson, 44, of no fixed address: 39 months
- Jacob Fisher, of James Avenue, Great Harwood: three years and six months
- Charles Wigglesworth, 38, of Spencer Street, Accrington: three years and two months
- Naomi Winters, of no fixed address: three years and two months
- Bradley Ridsdale, 22, of Weardale Avenue, Northumberland: three years
- Iftikar Asghar, 49, of Lincoln Street, Wakefield: two years and four months
- Colin Cardwell, 24, of St Paul’s Court, Accrington: two years and four months
- Ella Smith, of Dickens Road, Chorley: two years imprisonment, suspended for two years
- Brandon Wilson, of Higher Antley Street, Accrington: two years imprisonment, suspended for two years
- Tyler O’Neil, of Parker Street, Preston: two years imprisonment, suspended for two years
- Stephan Milton, of Willows Lane, Accrington: a three-year supervision order
- Jake Chambers, 22, of Poplar Avenue, Todmorden: two years imprisonment, suspended for two years
- Michael Hall, 32, of Clement Street, Accrington: warrant issued for his arrest
The defendants who were found guilty after trial were sentenced to the following:
- Bilal Yousaf, of Richmond Road, Accrington: four years
- Aleem Mahmood, of Garbett Street, Accrington: four years
- Marban Hussain, 53, of Jannat Close, Accrington: two years imprisonment, suspended for two years
DC Insp Tim Brown added: "I would encourage anybody who has concerns about criminal activity in their area to let the police know about it and, as demonstrated by this case, we will proactively act on that information."
To report a crime in your area call police on 101 or report it online via https://doitonline.lancashire.police.uk/.
If a crime is in progress, call 999.
It is thanks to our loyal readers that we can continue to provide the trusted news, analysis and insight that matters to you.
For unlimited access to our unrivalled local reporting, you can take out a subscription HERE and help support the work of our dedicated team of reporters.