OCG (Organised Crime Group) Investigation
James Kelly and Paul Gill were 2 of the a 31 member drug gang. Police Operation Cobweb saw that all 31 members of the OCG “drug gang” were jailed in total to 231 years.
The Court case for Operation Cobweb started in 2012 and finished in 2015. Kelly is now currently serving a 10 year sentence and Gill serving a four year sentence.
SYTECH were asked to carry out an advanced digital forensic examination of a PIN / Password Locked BlackBerry Mobile Phone Handset which is attributed to this on-going investigation.
“31-member drug gang that controlled illegal supplies across the north east are jailed following three-year investigation”
The final two defendants of a 31-member drug gang that supplied class A drugs across the north east have been jailed following one of the biggest drug operations ever.
Craig Ferguson, 38, and Dawn Gorman, 43, were jailed at Teesside Crown Court for their part in the cross-country drug dealing network.
They were the final two members of the 31-strong gang to be sentenced, after a three-year police investigation – dubbed ‘Operation Cobweb’ – brought the drugs ring to an end.
The investigation, the biggest drugs operation ever to be run by Cleveland Police, has now seen a total of 31 people put behind bars for a total of 231 years.
The final defendants were linked to a conspiracy to deal Class A drugs on an industrial scale, which allowed its kingpins to lead the high life.
Ferguson was jailed for five years and three months at the court hearing on Monday after the judges heard how he collected drugs for a local dealer on four occasions from January 2012 to August 2012.
Judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, said Ferguson transported large quantities of drugs from the north west to Teesside.
He said: ‘It was, as you know, a professional and skilled conspiracy.
‘You are towards the very bottom of this conspiracy.’
Also in the dock yesterday was Gorman, the wife of one of the conspiracy’s top bosses, who was jailed for 18 months.
The former air hostess’s husband Jeffrey Hanks, 52, is currently serving a 22-year jail term – the longest sentence given to any of the conspirators.
The couple, from Bury, splashed out on motorbikes, holidays, private education, a lavishly-furnished home, Jimmy Choo shoes and a Porsche Cayenne, the court heard previously.
Gorman was not involved in the drugs plot itself, but a jury convicted her of money laundering.
She had denied offences of concealing and converting criminal property.
The judge said she knew her husband Hanks – branded ‘a thoroughly manipulative, dishonest individual’ – was a drug dealer.
He told her: ‘It beggars’ belief that you did not know what was going on.
‘You were happily spending money that was part of a considerable and sizeable drug conspiracy.
‘You were willingly and enthusiastically spending the money on what, on any view, could be deemed an extravagant lifestyle.
‘Without that money from the drug dealing, you could not have in any way dreamt of leading such a life.’
He said the amount of money involved was ‘well in excess of £100,000’.
Barristers for the pair, who had few previous convictions, asked the judge to consider passing suspended sentences.
They stressed the ‘devastating’ impact of a prison term on the defendants’ children.
The judge told Gorman that she and her husband bore the responsibility for their children’s suffering, as they carried on their criminal activity knowing the possible consequences if they got caught.
‘You did it essentially because you were driven by greed,’ the judge added.
Duncan McReddie, defending Ferguson, said he had responsibility for seven children and he was a good and caring father who had tried to lead a productive, law-abiding life since his arrest.
He said Ferguson got involved out of a desire to help his cousin, fellow runner David Cuthbert.
Cuthbert, 38, was jailed for five years in May last year, along with 22 other members of the gang who were locked up for a total 177 years.
David Toal, representing Gorman, said she might have ‘turned a blind eye’ to the money and played a lesser role.
He said her health had also been affected and she stood to lose her home and possessions.
It has taken almost three years for the catalogue of court cases linked to Operation Cobweb to reach their conclusion.
They began with two cases in 2012 – one following a high-speed police chase where 2kg of heroin worth £90,000 was hurled from a moving car.
They finished with jail terms given yesterday to Ferguson and Gorman, who enjoyed the fruits of the network which flooded Teesside with Class A drugs.
In between, Judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC jailed 22 people – from couriers to warehousemen, right-hand men, lieutenants and ringleaders – to a total of 177 years in May last year.
He said of the drugs conspiracy: ‘It was carried out in a determined and ruthless fashion. It was conceived and put into effect by professional and experienced criminals who were aiming to achieve a high financial reward.’
The second-longest sentence of 16 years was given to Robert Hickman, 29 – the leader of the Teesside operation.
He unsuccessfully appealed his prison term, and arranged for drugs to be smuggled into prison, for which he received a concurrent six-year sentence.
Then in December, one of the gang’s north west ‘controllers in chief’ Jeffrey Hanks was jailed for 22 years.
Operation Cobweb was Cleveland Police’s largest-ever drugs investigation and has now put 31 people behind bars for a total of 231 years.
The three-year investigation smashed a well-organised drugs ring, which was driven by dedicated criminals trafficking heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine using ‘dirty phones’.
The drugs were transported from the Greater Manchester area to Teesside regularly, with payment in tens of thousands of pounds heading the other way.
More than 100 trips were made between Teesside and Manchester transporting vast amounts of drugs and ‘dirty money’.
Officers seized almost 6.9kg in heroin, 2.26kg of cocaine, 437.5g of crack cocaine and more than 22kg in cutting agents.
The recovered drugs were worth £824,686, and £127,966 cash was seized, but prosecutors said this was the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
Police and prosecutors pieced together evidence including telephone communications analysis, observations, drug and cash seizures, vehicle sightings and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera data.
Detective Sergeant Colin Helyer, from Cleveland Police’s organised crime unit, said Operation Cobweb was a protracted and complex covert investigation and one of the unit’s largest-ever inquiries.
Speaking after the final two defendants were sentenced yesterday, Detective Constable John Findlay, who also works with Cleveland Police’s organised crime unit, said: ‘This has been one of Cleveland Police’s longest-running, most complex and involved investigations.
‘I would like to pay tribute to all our officers who have worked tirelessly over several years to bring these people before the courts.
‘I would also like to thank those members of the public who provided vital information to help our inquiries.
‘I would reiterate that police will always act on information on drug dealing and other crime which is provided to us.
‘You may not see anything happen immediately but rest assured, there will be a good deal of work going on in the background.
‘With assistance from our colleagues at Greater Manchester Police, we have succeeded in bringing to justice a large group of people who were involved in drug dealing across the North and North-east, and who were often profiting handsomely from their involvement.
‘Those jailed will have time to reflect on their actions, and the sentences should act as a deterrent to anyone tempted to deal illegal drugs.’