SOME 21 members of a county lines drugs gang that was infiltrating rural towns in Powys have been sentenced (on Friday, December 20, 2019).

17 pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin and cocaine. Six defendants stood trial. Five were found guilty, one not guilty.

They have been sentenced to over 100 years in prison. The 22nd member will be sentenced in January.

This marks the final stage of Operation Regent, a long and complex investigation targeting county lines groups. Officers from throughout Powys, the force’s Serious and Organised Crime Team and the National Crime Agency worked together to dismantle an organised crime gang operating between Merseyside and Powys.

The identified Organise Crime Group (OCG) was using the county lines method of drug distributions between August 2016 and June 2018. Drug suppliers were travelling to Powys from Merseyside and set up business with local drug dealers to sell heroin and crack cocaine.

During the investigation Dyfed-Powys Police’s Serious Organised Crime Team (SOCT) evidenced in the region of £1.1 million pounds worth of heroin and crack cocaine being couriered into the Powys area. The Merseyside based OCG based themselves in a number of premises in Powys, particularly in Llandrindod Wells and Newtown. They used the ‘cuckooing’ method of taking over properties, often homes of vulnerable people, to use them for the preparation and distribution of class A drugs.

The trials concluded in July, but a reporting restriction was imposed until the conclusion of trials in Merseyside for Operation Bombay as the two were intrinsically linked. A further 20 people were convicted through the Merseyside operation.

Superintendent Jon Cummins said: “This is a fantastic result for Dyfed-Powys Police, in particular our Serious and Organised Crime Team, which has worked tirelessly to dismantle the OCG that was operating in Llandrindod Wells and Newtown. But most importantly, this is good news for the communities affected by this activity happening in their residential areas.

“We knew there was a problem with OCGs from elsewhere in the UK travelling to our communities to supply Class A drugs in Powys. Our action to disrupt supply should clearly demonstrate to travelling criminals that this will not be tolerated in Powys. We may be a rural community but we are a community that works closely with our residents and partners to gather and respond to their concerns and information.”

The operation reached the stage of executing warrants in August 2018, starting in Llandrindod Wells.

During one of the arrests, residents lined the street and clapped as the suspect was taken away by police.

A key part of the strategy and investigation was recognition of the complexity of the scenario. Some suspects were potentially victims that may be dependent on drugs.

Police included drug treatment agencies in this part of the operation to make sure those people were offered support and advice to help them turn their lives around, if they were willing to take the help on offer.

Detective Inspector Gareth Grant, Head of Dyfed-Powys Police’s Serious Organised Crime Team, said: A number of these individuals have been heavily involved in the supply and organisation of Class A controlled drugs in the Powys and Merseyside area for a number of years, and their removal from society will greatly benefit the community.

“The success of the Operation can be attributed to the close partnership working of a number of policing departments in addition to external organisations. Between our operation and Merseyside operation, a significant organise crime gang has been destroyed, with significant seizures along the way.”

“I must also urge people to contact us – or Crimestoppers if they would prefer to pass on information anonymously – if they suspect drug dealing or cuckooing in their town, village or street. Make sure you’re aware of the signs, such as people coming and going from an address all times of day and night, curtains closed all the time or an increase in anti-social behaviour.”

To report anything suspicious or concerns about the selling and taking of drugs in their community by calling 101, or report online.

To report information anonymously, call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

For advice and information on County Lines drugs supply see the Dyfed-Powys Police Op Guardian advice page.

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