Preston drugs gang who posed as workmen are jailed for 100 years after £44 million cocaine bust

A Preston-based drugs gang have been jailed for more than 100 years for their role in dealing cocaine worth up to £44 million across the UK.

Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 12:27 pm
Updated Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 2:24 pm
Eight men - from Preston, Penwortham, Longton and Lancaster - pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs (cocaine), whilst a 26-year-old woman from Bamber Bridge (not pictured) pleaded guilty to money laundering. Pic: Lancashire Police

Eight men - from Preston, Penwortham, Longton and Lancaster - pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs (cocaine), whilst a 26-year-old woman from Bamber Bridge pleaded guilty to money laundering.

The gang was sentenced at Preston Crown Court on Thursday and Friday (July 29 and July 30) following a large-scale investigation by Lancashire Police’s Serious Crime Team into the supply of wholesale quantities of cocaine and cannabis, as well as money laundering offences.

During the course of the investigation - codenamed Operation Collier - the force said it seized more than 20kg of cocaine and £250,000 in cash.

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During the course of the investigation, police seized more than 20kg of cocaine and £250,000 in cash. But the investigation revealed that the organised crime group had been involved in the movement of an estimated 900kg of cocaine with a street value of upto £44 million. Pic: Lancashire Police

But the investigation revealed that the organised crime group had been involved in the movement of an estimated 900kg of cocaine with a street value of upto £44 million.

Detectives discovered that the group had cloaked their criminality during the pandemic by masquerading as workmen, using vans and dressing in workman’s clothing to evade ‘lockdown’ restrictions.

The defendants all pleaded guilty to supplying drugs within Lancashire and as far and wide as Scotland, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester between January 2020 and September 2020.

Det Supt Kevin McLean, of Lancashire Police, said: "The investigative resources dedicated to Operation Collier resulting in these significant sentences show Lancashire Constabulary’s commitment to dealing with individuals involved in serious and organised crime.

"Our clear message to those involved in this type of criminality is we will target you and ensure you not only receive a suitable sentence, but lose any assets gained as a result of your activities.

"As always, we cannot achieve any of this without the support of our communities and I ask if you have any information regarding individuals who are committing crime please contact Lancashire Constabulary on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."

The named defendants are:

- Ashley Haynes, 27, of Mersey Street, Ashton-On-Ribble, Preston, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A (cocaine) and conspiracy to supply Class (cannabis) drugs. He was sentenced to 20 years and three months in prison.

- Anthony Haynes, 58, of Tristan Avenue, Walmer Bridge, Preston, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A (cocaine). He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

- Joshua Harrison, 34, of Ingleborough Road, Lancaster, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A (cocaine) and conspiracy to money launder. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

- Anthony Dexter, 42, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to to conspiracy to supply Class A (cocaine), conspiracy to supply Class (cannabis) drugs and conspiracy to money launder. He was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison.

- Sebastian Haigh, 32, of Church Brow, Halton, Lancaster, pleaded guilty to to conspiracy to supply Class A (cocaine), conspiracy to supply Class (cannabis) drugs and conspiracy to money launder. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

- Ryan Alty, 31, of Belle Field Close, Penwortham, pleaded guilty to to conspiracy to supply Class A (cocaine), conspiracy to supply Class (cannabis) drugs and conspiracy to money launder. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

- Leon Mansley, 34, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A (cocaine) and conspiracy to money launder. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

- Michael Newsham, 31, of Barn Hey, Longton, Preston, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply Class A (cocaine) on September 2, 2020. He was sentenced to five years and three months in prison.

- Paige Hambleton, 26, of Lostock Lane, Bamber Bridge, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to money launder. She was sentenced to 21 months in prison, suspended for two years.

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