Fortress behind bars – Operation Shield: Crime networks sentenced for more than 100 years for drug offences in Southampton.

Published on:
22 Jun 2017, 12:10 p.m.
Published by:
Marisa Charles
Category:
General news
Area:
Southampton

41 people have been sentenced for their part in organised crime and drug networks supplying class A drugs in Southampton.

Op Shield - Beer FINAL
Four men of the six people that made up the Beer/Leroy Network

Today, five men were sentenced to a total of 24 years in prison and on April 28 eight men were sentenced to a total of 59 years for running drug networks in Southampton.

In total, 41 people have been prosecuted as part of the major operation that sought to dismantle several crime networks using the city as a base to conduct their businesses. The total jail time handed down is 134 years. Operation Shield was a covert operation spanning over 18 months that focused on restricting the supply of class A drugs in Southampton. 

Operation Shield was driven by Hampshire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit. The operation was run in partnership with the National Crime Agency (NCA), South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU), the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and officers from Merseyside Police.

On April 25 2016, officers from these organisations worked collaboratively and executed 26 warrants across Southampton, London and Liverpool.

On May 24 2016 a further six warrants were executed across Southampton and London.

Cash amounting to £34,736.27 in Sterling and €23,060.00 in Euros was seized as part of the operation, alongside drugs worth £24,350 at street value.

Op Shield Scouse Network
Scouse Network, sentenced on April 28, 2017

The most prolific network encountered called ‘Scouse’ from Merseyside were sentenced on April 28. They set up their business in Southampton between September 2015 and April 2016. Eight men were arrested and charged in 2016, and later pleaded guilty to supplying heroin and crack cocaine in Southampton, as well as possessing offensive weapons and money laundering. In total they received 59 years between them.

• Yugash Lawler, aged 28, Woodland Road, Liverpool pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin. He was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court on April 28 to 10 years and 6 months.

• Ricky Wilgrove aged 28 of Lethbridge Close, Liverpool pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin and money laundering. He was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court on April 28 to 10 years and 6 months for the drug offences and a further two years for money laundering, to run concurrently. 

• Darren Bailey, aged 26, Dentwood Street, Liverpool pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supplying crack cocaine and heroin.  He was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court on April 28 to 9 years.

• Jordan Palmer, aged 26, St James Drive, Liverpool pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin.  He was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court on April 28 to 6 years and 9 months.

• Daniel Topping, aged 25, Boswell Street, Liverpool pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin. He was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court on April 28 to 3 years and 6 months.

• Matthew Grant, aged 28 of New Ferry Road, Wirral pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin and possession of an offensive weapon. He was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court on April 28 to 6 years and 3 months for possession of a knuckle duster.

• Daniel Pythian, aged 25 Albert Schweizer Avenue, Liverpool pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin and possession of a section 5 firearm. He was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court on April 28 to 6 years and 6 months for possession of stun gun. 

• Mark Smith, aged 26 of Maple Grove, Liverpool pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin.  He was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court on April 28 to 6 years and 6 months. 

The Scouse network were responsible for supplying in excess of 5 kilos of crack cocaine and heroin in Southampton during September 2015 and April 2016. Over £66,000 in cash went through the bank account of Wilgrove and over £30,000 in cash was seized from them.

Seized Scouse Network
Cash seized and stun gun disguised as a mobile phone

The main base of the Scouse network was a flat in Northam Road, Southampton where drugs were sold from within the premises and from where the runners were sent. Members of the group were stopped whilst travelling between Southampton and Liverpool and on one occasion this led to over £6000 being seized when their car was stopped in Staffordshire.

A search of Pythian’s address as a result of this located a stun gun which was disguised as a mobile phone. On another occasion whilst Lawler, Wilgrove and Pythian were travelling out of the country to Holland, over 20,000 euros was seized from them.

Lawler and Wilgrove were found to have travelled to Holland on a number of occasions and it is believed that this is where some of the drugs were sourced.

The individuals involved in the conspiracy travelled between Liverpool and Southampton on 79 occasions. The Scouse drug phone always stayed in Merseyside area but would call those from Liverpool that were managing the network in Southampton to inform them of orders. The individuals would either deliver the drugs themselves and collect the money or dispatch local runners to supply drugs on the streets of Southampton.

Op Shield - Beer FINAL
The Beer/Leroy Network

Today, a further five men identified as part of another network called ‘Beer’ were sentenced to a total of 24 years.

• Frank Nserko, aged 23, from Albury Court, Mitcham, Surrey pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine. He was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court today (Thursday 22 June) to 5 years. Nserko was found in possession of 24 deals of heroin and 29 deals of crack cocaine. 

• Joshua Whitter, aged 24, from Bennetts Close, Mitcham pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine. He was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court today (Thursday 22 June) to 8 years. Found on a search of his home address was a crack cocaine production line in the kitchen - including gloves, cooking pots with cocaine traces and scales with heroin and cocaine traces, 35g crack cocaine (value £3500), 14.7g heroin (value £1400) and 49 deals of heroin (value £980). Also found was the 'Beer / Leroy' drug network phone.

• Peter Roberts, aged 18, Bordersley Road, South Malden, London pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin and he was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court today (Thursday 22 June) to 2 years, suspended for 2 years.

• Craig Morris, aged 27, Clitheroe Road, London pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin and he was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court today (Thursday 22 June) to 9 years and 7 months. During a search of Morris’ home address, officers found 28g of cocaine and 329g of various cutting agents, along with £5000 cash, scales and packaging.

• Jacob Hemans, aged 18 from Haslemere Avenue, Mitcham was charged with conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and he was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court today (Thursday 22 June) to 2 years and 3 months.

• A 16-year-old boy from Twickenham was charged with conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine. He pleaded not guilty and faced a trial on May 2 at Southampton Crown Court. He was found guilty and will be sentenced seperately at a later date.

Op Shield seized Beer Network
Drugs and cash seized

The Beer network, also known as the ‘Leroy’ network, were operating what is known as a ‘county line’ from South London into Hampshire, where they were sending teenagers to Southampton to manage the day to day operation of the business whilst Morris and Whitter remained in London and directed them in dealing. 

Whilst the drug phone remained in London, the network also had a local flat in White Star Place, Southampton, from where they dispatched their younger runners who would supply to users on the streets. A significant amount of drugs, cash and associated paraphernalia was recovered when officers executed simultaneous warrants in London and Southampton, including what was described as a crack cocaine production line.

The investigations into these networks uncovered other crime groups dealing Class A drugs in Southampton. The individuals identified as being involved in those networks received their sentences between May 2016 and December 2016.

This extensive investigation, spanning over 18 months was not only designed to arrest and charge, but to identify people who were on the periphery of crime and vulnerable to exploitation through addiction. Only through utilising our specialist skills and those of our partners are we able to identify these people and divert them away from a life of crime. Twelve people were identified as vulnerable drug users who had begun dabbling in drug supply, exploited by these networks. They were referred to drug-rehabilitation and support services.

Detective Superintendent Paul Barton from the Serious Organised Crime Unit said:

“This was an extensive, pro-active investigation by Hampshire Constabulary in partnership with the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit, Merseyside Police, the Metropolitan Police Service and National Crime Agency into the organised supply of class A drugs into Southampton.

“We hope this work sends a clear message that drug supply and the harm it causes to communities will not be tolerated in Southampton and that Hampshire Constabulary is committed to tackling such criminality.

“Not only have we prosecuted those who have supplied drugs, we have targeted their assets and will continue to do so using all of the legislation available to us.

“County Lines is a national problem and law enforcement agencies across the UK work together to disrupt these networks and to safeguard those vulnerable people affected by them. The impact drug supply has on individuals and communities cannot be underestimated and our work to disrupt this activity will continue.

“We know from past experience that when one drug network is removed, another one is waiting in the wings to fill that gap. We are waiting in the wings also, and we won’t stop pursuing these crime networks.  

“I would urge communities to report any suspicious activity which may indicate a new network is operating in their town or city.  Signs to look out for are new or regular visitors to an address of a vulnerable person or drug addict, hire cars parked in areas which are not linked to local residents, or young unaccompanied teenagers travelling into towns or cities from outside the area often using public transport like trains or coaches. They are likely to be trafficked into the city to be used as drug runners.”

Hampshire Constabulary works with a number of partners as part to help signpost help and support to those affected by drugs.

If you are concerned by your, or someone else’s drug or alcohol use free and confidential help is available in Southampton.

Is there anything wrong with this page?

Help us improve this website

Please do not use this form to report an incident or crime, and please do not include any sensitive or confidential information.


You are responsible for all information that you have entered into this form.