Six people have been sentenced to immediate imprisonment for supplying drugs as part of an organised crime group.
Their sentences form part of Operation Stingray investigated by officers from Cumbria drug squad and relate to the supply of Class A drugs (heroin and crack cocaine), from Merseyside to Kendal and Morecambe.
This criminal enterprise relied heavily on the use of mobile phones, with trusted members of the organised crime group such as Lewis Backstrom, 23, of Darwick Drive, Merseyside and Thomas McClennan, 22, of August Road, Liverpool, holding the mobile phone containing contacts of Class A drug users in both Morecambe and Kendal.
They all appeared at Carlisle Crown Court today, February 7 2017 after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs between August 1 and September 15 2016.
Lewis Backstrom, 23, of Darwick Drive, Merseyside, was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years; Thomas McClennan, 22, of August Road, Liverpool, was sentenced to six years and four months; James Powell, 22, of Lingtree Road, Kirkby, Liverpool, was sentenced to four years; Scott Barcroft, 38, of Rinkfield, Kendal, was sentenced to three years and four months; Dominic Eve, 37, of Stricklandgate, Kendal, was sentenced to three years and four months; Coral Packwood, 26, of Broad Ing Crescent, Kendal, was sentenced to two-and-a-half-years.
The coourt heard that mobile phone users would be alerted via text message when heroin and crack cocaine was in the area, and they would ring the phone to place their order before being sent to a specific location to be handed the drugs by another member of the group.
The use of the phones allowed detectives to piece together the conspiracy and identify the involvement of each member of the group involved in the supply of drugs.
Over a period of two months, officers from both Cumbria and Lancashire carried out a series of co-ordinated strikes.
The first arrest was made on September 7 2016, when Dominic Eve’s home address was searched under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Eve was arrested after officers found five wraps of heroin, two rocks of cocaine and numerous torn bits of plastic at his property which suggested that Class A drugs had been prepared on the premises.
Analysis of Eve’s mobile phone first led police to Thomas McClennan, who was also arrested on September 7 2016 after being found in possession of a deal of crack cocaine, and £135 in cash.
Prior to his arrest, he ran from officers and tried to destroy his mobile phone.
This transpired to be the mobile phone controlling the supply of Class A in the Kendal area.
Interrogation of McClennan’s phone showed he was regularly travelling between Merseyside and an address at Broad Ing Crescent, Kendal, which transpired to be that of Coral Packwood.
Packwood’s property was searched on September 7 2016 after the arrest of McClennan, and police found a small amount of heroin and a set of electronic scales.
Numerous torn pieces of plastic were also found in the wheelie bin in the garden – these had the fingerprints of McClennan and Backstrom on them.
She was arrested and detectives were able to piece together the extent of her involvement.
She not only allowed members of the crime group to use her house a base, but offered to collect money and deliver drugs to street dealers.
On September 14 2016, officers attended the home address of Barcroft to execute a warrant under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Officers found numerous pieces of plastic, consistent with drug supply, in his property.
Powell was also in the house, and gave police reason to believe that he had drugs hidden within him. He was arrested and kept in custody, where he later passed a package that contained 18 street deals of heroin.
Barcroft was not arrested at that time due to medical issues, but was later arrested on September 20.
Operation Stingray came to a conclusion on October 20 2016, when police went to Lancashire to arrest Backstrom. He attempted to destroy a mobile phone whilst also trying to escape, but officers arrested him and were able to identify his phone was responsible for controlling the Class A drugs market in Morecambe.
A search of his address in Liverpool found a quantity of heroin and crack cocaine.
A Cumbria Police spokesperson said: “These six all played different roles in the supply of drugs from Merseyside to Cumbria and Lancashire. Backstrom and McClennan were in charge of the main phones controlling the drug supply in the area, Powell was transporting the drugs between the two places, McClennan was sent to Kendal for the sole purpose of supplying Class A drugs, and Eve and Barcroft were supplying the drugs to other users locally.
“Despite their part in the conspiracy differing, they all played a significant role in the transport of these dangerous substances into Cumbria on an almost daily basis.
“It took a great deal of hard work and time to ensure that these six ended up in front of the courts, but through some carefully planned and professionally executed interventions, we succeeded in catching the gang in the act, meaning they faced overwhelming evidence against them.
“We will continue to pursue those involved in this serious crime to ensure they are brought to justice.”