TWO men from Tonbridge, along with five other members of a professional criminal and organised crime gang, have been sentenced to a total of nearly 39 years in prison for importing tonnes of illegal drugs into the country.
Harry Card, 31, of Hadlow Road, and Michael Wheaton, 31, of Golding Gardens, East Peckham, were sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on Tuesday for conspiracy to import Class A and Class B drugs and supply Class B drugs.
The group was headed by Terry Conlon from Warwickshire and his partner Troy Stanton, who was living in Spain.
Conlon controlled the importation of drugs into the UK while Stanton was responsible for the criminal groupgang’s operations abroad.
On July 30, 2008, 82kg of cannabis resin was recovered by police following a surveillance operation of a pub car park in Coventry.
The drugs had been driven to Coventry from Kent and at the handover all those involved were arrested.
But the Serious and Organised Crime Unit (Socu) needed more evidence it was connected to Conlon and Stanton.
In 2010 Socu contacted the Spanish authorities and after a thorough investigation into drug shipment, they were able to prove the men sentenced were linked to the drug seizures from July 2008. Warrants were issued for their arrest in June 2013 for suspicion of conspiracy to import and supply controlled drugs.
Conlon and Stanton pleaded guilty to all charges against them while other defendants pleaded guilty to some and not guilty to others, so went to trial.
Card was sentenced to four years and four months after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cannabis. He was found not guilty of two counts of conspiracy to import cocaine.
And Wheaton was sentenced to three years
after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cannabis.
He pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict and the charge will now be dropped.
The five other members of the gang, from Warwickshire, Essex, Warks and Coventry, were sentenced to 31 years and seven months between them.
David Card, 51, of Oakmead Road, Tonbridge, also stood trial, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on a charge for conspiracy to import cocaine, which will now be dropped.
Detective Chief Inspector Ally Wright, head of Warwickshire Police’s Serious Organised Crime Agencyocu, said: “This has been one of the longest and largest-ever proactive investigations ever undertaken by Warwickshire Police and we are pleased we have steadily dismantled a high-level organised crime group.
“The criminal enterprise headed by Conlon was a multi-million-pound business: those involved had amassed the trappings of wealth and yet none of them had a job or paid any tax.
“They were alive to police tactics which meant they were disciplined and determined in their pursuit to make money and avoid detection.”
“However, this did not deter us and the use of the intelligence supplied by the Spanish authorities has been central to this prosecution.
“I want to thank all the forces that assisted us at various times throughout the investigation.”