Members of a drugs gang which brought hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of cocaine and heroin into Grantham have been given jail sentences totalling 40 years at Lincoiln Crown Court.
Supplies of the drugs were brought in from North London and Luton in an operation headed up by Jermaine Francis, a Londoner who had moved north to live in Grantham.
Couriers travelled by car, private hire vehicles and mainline trains to bring drugs back to Lincolnshire.
Richard Thatcher, prosecuting, said that an estimated four kilos of cocaine and heroin were brought into Grantham with a street value of more than £350,000.
He told the court: “This was a conspiracy to import Class A drugs into Grantham from London and Luton over an eight month period. There were some 73 trips. The approximate valuation of that conspiracy is four kilos which had a value of a figure in the order of £375,000.”
Police carried out a lengthy undercover surveillance operation which led to couriers being detained only for the leaders of the gang to then recruit new couriers to replace them.
Jermaine Francis, 38, of Albert Street, Grantham, and Paul Cato, 45, of Carlton Crescent, Luton, were each jailed for eight years after admitting two charges of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs between March 6, 2015 and November 4, 2015.
Cato, described as the Luton supplier, was given a 12 month consecutive jail sentence after admitting possession of an illegal weapon and ammunition after a stun gun and a bullet were found during a search of his home.
Francis was also given an indefinite serious crime prevention order aimed at restricting his activities after he is released from custody.
Jordan McGlann, 20, of no fixed address but from the Grantham area, also admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin.
McGlann, who was described as “the right hand man” of Francis, was sent to a young offenders’ institution for six years.
Five men and a woman who acted as couriers to transport cocaine and heroin were also jailed.
Kwame Appah, 44, of Gordon Road, Finchley; Clifton Hunte, 56, of Bailey Hill Court, Luton; and Dilem Ozbahadir, 23, of Huntingdon Road, Edmonton; each denied conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin but were found guilty by a jury following trials.
Appah was jailed for four and a half years, Hunte for four years and Ozbahadir for three years.
Joseph Newman, 21, of Earlesfield Lane, Grantham; admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin. He was jailed for three years.
Jake Gaughan, 20, of East Avenue, Grantham, admitted one charge of conspiracy to supply cocaine. He was given 30 months at a young offenders’ institution.
Regan Carter, 19, of Huntingtower Road, Grantham, admitted one charge of conspiracy to supply cocaine. He was given 16 months in a young offenders’ institution suspended for 12 months with 150 hours of unpaid work and a rehabilitation requirement of up to 20 days.
A 10th defendant, Jack Plackett, 21, of Barrowby Road, Grantham, was jailed for eight months back in December 2016 after he admitted possession of cannabis with intent to supply.
Four other defendants are due to be sentenced on later dates for their roles in the conspiracy.
Andrew Fitch-Holland, for Francis, said he has already spent almost two years in custody after being held on remand since his arrest but he realised he faced a substantial sentence.
Shahid Rashid, for McGlann, said his client had no previous convictions and was much younger than Francis.
“The trigger event was that his best friend got run over by a car. As a result of that he became involved in the use of cannabis and as a result became involved in this conspiracy.”
Shaun Esprit, for Cato, said that he apologised for what he had done and is now planning to stay out of trouble in the future.
Andrew Fitch-Holland, for Appah, said his client had made “a catastrophic error of judgement” in becoming involved in the conspiracy.
He said Appah, whose family now face losing their home, has been studying for an Open University degree while on remand in custody.
Sean Poulier, for Hunte, admitted his client had a previous conviction for the importation of cocaine. He told the court “Mr Hunte was homeless and was living with Cato for a short time. It may be that he felt obliged to assist.”
Sean Poulier, for Osbahadir, said she became involved after being reunited with a former boyfriend who was part of the conspiracy. At the time she was a university student studying psychology.
Andrew Fitch-Holland, for Newman, said he was involved in 10 trips as a courier. He added “He had a serious cocaine addiction. His remuneration was in drugs and not in money.”
John McNally, for Gaughan, said he was not aware of the scale of the conspiracy and his involvement was purely as a courier.
Sunil Khanna, for Carter, said he was only 17 when he took part in the conspiracy and made just two trips to London accompanied by McGlann. Mr Khanna said that Carter since stayed out of trouble and now has a full-time job.
DCI Paul Myers, who led the investigation, said: “Whatever the level, from street dealing to highly organised distribution, we will seek out drug crime and make it our mission to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
The original story featured a picture provided by Lincolnshire Police of Clinton Hunte, Clifton Hunte’s brother. The force has spoken to the family directly to apologise for the mix-up.