MEMBERS of an organised crime gang been given jail sentences totalling more than 67 years.
The gang members were arrested and taken to court following Operation Bespoke, a lengthy investigation into organised crime, drugs dealing and money laundering in Lancaster, Morecambe and surrounding areas.
Officers involved in the investigation initially carried out a series of raids in 2009 and 2010, acting on intelligence that the gang were involved in the supply and distribution of cocaine and other drugs. The raids also revealed that the gang had access to a variety of weapons, including firearms.
During the subsequent trial at Preston Crown Court, the jury heard how the illegal operation was headed by 27-year-old Anthony Diprose of Roeburn Drive in Morecambe. His younger brother Jason Diprose, 26, also organised the group’s activities.
Others helped to mix cocaine with adulterants, compressing the diluted powder using hydraulic presses and redistributing it to street dealers, while also storing drugs and firearms in their homes.
Anthony Diprose lived a lavish lifestyle from the profits of the drug dealing activity, buying designer clothes, expensive jewellery and a high-value car. He laundered money with the assistance of various friends and relatives, who also stood trial for the offences.
The activities of the gang left many Lancaster residents – particularly those on the Ryelands Estate where many of the group lived – appalled at the criminal behaviour occurring in their communities, but fearful to speak out about it.
Following a 13–week trial, Anthony Diprose was found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine and money laundering. He pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation after clocking a Range Rover. He was jailed for 16 years.
His brother, Jason Diprose, 26, Austwick Road, Lancaster, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cannabis; conspiracy to supply cocaine and fraud by false representation. He was jailed for 16 years.
Both brothers were made subject to a serious crime prevention order which will last for five years from the date of their release from release from custody.
Aidan Higgins, 21, of Dee Road, Lancaster, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and possessing heroin. He was jailed for four years.
Liam Wiper, 24, of Euston Grove, Morecambe, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine. He was jailed for six years and nine months.
Andrew Gunningham, 30, of Ryelands Road, Lancaster, found guilty to conspiracy to supply class B drugs and was pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine. He was jailed for seven years.
Brian Coulton, 31, of Tarnsyke Road, Lancaster, was found guilty at trial of conspiracy to supply cocaine. He was jailed for five years.
David Threlfall, 28, of Artle Place, Lancaster, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class B drugs. He was jailed for 18 months.
Kenneth Smith, 23, of Acre Court, Mainway, Lancaster, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and was found guilty at trial of possession with intent to supply cocaine. He was jailed for four years.
Liam Parkinson, 25, of Norfolk Street, Lancaster, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine; possession with intent to supply heroin and possessing a taser. He was jailed for seven years.
All were told they would serve half these sentences in prison and the other half out on licence.
Katie Noon, 25, and Paul Noon, 30, both of Austwick Road, Lancaster were both found guilty of a money laundering at trial and were given a six months sentence which was suspended for two years and 50 hours of unpaid work.
Rachel Lynch, 42, and Paul Lynch, 45, both of Tarnbrook Road, Lancaster were found guilty of a money laundering at trial and were given a two year community order, a two year supervision order and 40 hours of unpaid work.
For the full story, photographs and a background feature see next week’s paper.