Lancashire drugs gang convicted

Police today warned drugs gangs they would be 'taken down' after members of a gang which flooded the streets of Blackpool with Class A drugs were found guilty at Preston Crown Court.

The ‘Carlos’ gang, was headed by Christopher Nimbley, 37, of Wordsworth Street, Liverpool, who, it can now be revealed has also been convicted with two others of the brutal rape of a vulnerable woman, smuggled heroin and crack cocaine into the resort from the Merseyside area.

The police investigation which cracked the gang – codenamed Operation Lawson - began in November 2016 and quickly established that OCG boss Nimbley, who pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, was running a mobile phone which drug users would call to then be directed to another number for a street dealer.

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Brothers Jeffrey Dillon, 34, of Inglewhite, Skelmersdale and Bradley Dillon, 19, of Lea Crescent, Ormskirk - the two others convicted of the rape - were Nimbley’s ‘lieutenants’ in Blackpool, operating out of a flat on Derby Road.

Undercover surveillance showed that the Dillons were both using the dealer number before any hand to hand drug exchanges taking place.

The gang mainly carried out drug deals on the street but also used flats in the Claremont area.

Surveillance revealed that when members of the gang went to these flats, there would soon follow a flurry of drug users to the address.

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The operation also uncovered Nimbley travelling to Toxteth in Liverpool at least three times a week to collect drugs before returning to Blackpool using Mark Ansell, 41, of Lindbeck Road, Blackpool, as a driver.

He was also found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A drugs along with Kerry Smith, 30, of Cuncliffe Road, Blackpool who was dealing the drugs.

The arrest of a local drug user in January 2017 seemed to force Nimbley to move back to Liverpool and leave the Dillon brothers in charge of the Blackpool operation.

The gang then operated on more of a ‘county lines’ model using vulnerable people to work as runners, delivering drugs and money, coordinated through a phone relay system. ‘Lines’ refers to the mobile phone numbers the gangs use to sell drugs.

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On Friday, February 3, 2017, drugs warrants were executed at a flat on Clevedon Road, Blackpool where Jeffrey Dillon, Bradley Dillon, and James Rothwell, 28, of Hallcroft, Skelmersdale, were arrested for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

Numerous phones were seized as well as digital scales and a small amount of cannabis and spice.

The scales were later found to contain traces of cocaine, heroin and cannabis.

A further drugs warrant was then conducted at a flat on Derby Road where mobile phones were seized along with plastic bags consistent with the supply of class A drugs.

The packaging was later found to contain traces of cocaine.

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A warrant was also executed at a flat on Mill Street, Toxteth, Liverpool, where gang boss Nimbley was living.

He was not present at the address but documentation and identification was seized that linked him to the premises.

Items recovered from the flat were forensically examined which were confirmed to have Christopher Nimbley’s fingerprints on.

Also seized from the premises was a large amount of loose brown powder – 14 grams of 29 per cent purity heroin - and two large white crack cocaine rocks valued at around £10,000.

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The haul also contained scales, packaging, tick lists, mobile phones and a chopping board which contained scratch marks and was covered in small chips of white rock, consistent with producing crack cocaine.

Other arrests and seizures followed in the following days.

Christopher Nimbley remained outstanding but following a media appeal on Tuesday, September 5, 2017, he was located and arrested at an address in Liverpool.

Also found at the premises was a suitcase containing over £2,000 as well as digital scales.

As a result of evidence seized during this investigation, officers discovered that the principal members of the crime gang were not just involved in the supply of heroin and cocaine but also were sexually exploiting vulnerable individuals.

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A number of mobile telephones had been seized and were submitted for forensic examination.

Images held on these mobile telephones showed the three principal members - Nimbley and the Dillon - brothers raping a woman who appeared to be unresponsive throughout and was clearly intoxicated.

She was later identified, confirming that she had never given her permission or consent for any sexual activity to take place and she couldn’t recall the incident.

All three were arrested on suspicion of rape and on Thursday, November 9, 2017, following a three week trial at Preston Crown Court they were found guilty.

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Police bosses today warned other criminal gangs engaging in similar activity that they would be taken down and that officers would continue tirelessly to target the activity such as that used by the Carlos gang.

DCI Rebecca Smith, of Blackpool Police, said: “This investigation highlighted major criminal networks within Blackpool with sophisticated organised crime gangs from across the country moving their criminal activities and establishing bases within this area.

“These operations are extremely complex and take time to both investigate and bring to court so while the activity in this case was in 2016 and 2017 we continue today to target gangs like ‘Carlos’ as daily business and we remain committed to dismantling them.

“The supply of class A drugs from urban hubs to county towns continues to be a widespread issue in Lancashire. ‘County lines’ gangs pose a significant threat to vulnerable adults and children upon whom they rely to facilitate and conduct their illegal activities.

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“Exposure to this level of gang exploitation has the potential to create both emotional and physical harm and, as in this case, extreme sexual violence to a vulnerable woman.

“We are committed to tackling all those who deal drugs in our communities, including ‘county lines’ activity.

“Working together with both our communities and police forces across the North West and beyond, including the regional serious organised crime unit, Titan, we are actively targeting and disrupting these gangs.

“We want to stop gang leaders getting rich out of someone else’s misery and where clear evidence exists offenders will be put before the courts as we have in this case.”

The group will be sentenced at a later date.