Two big York crime gangs jailed
TWO York-based crime gangs are today behind bars, serving jail sentences totalling more than 30 years.
Brian Smith, 37, was leader of a heroin-dealing gang and also part of a "professional" metal stealing gang, and was jailed for nine and a half years.
He arranged repeated drug runs from Doncaster to York and ran a distribution network in York for ten months, before the gang was arrested in May 2013, Teesside Crown Court heard.
Judge Peter Armstrong said one to five kilograms of drugs were involved, and told him: "It is an aggravating factor that you got others involved in offending they might not overwise have been tempted to be involved in."
The metal thieves specialised in stealing BT copper cable, sometimes on the outskirts of York or remote areas of North Yorkshire.
The judge said their actions between October 2012 and January 2013 led to hundreds of people being cut off, sometimes for days.
Tom Storey, prosecuting, said police seized three-quarters of a kilo of heroin en-route to York in two consignments, but more of the drug got through. For months, undercover officers watched a house in Melbourne Street and other places where the heroin was sold until they were ready to round up the entire gang.
Brian Smith ran the heroin gang from his home on James Street Caravan Site. He got Liam Baker, Lauren Hughes and Nathan Tetley to bring consignments from Doncaster to York and distributed them to dealers including Michael Purnell and Michael Marshall.
Smith and his wife Danielle sold heroin over the back wall of the caravan, where it bordered a cycle path.
For part of the ten months the gang operated, Smith was also part of a five-man gang of metal thieves whose night time raids cut off hundreds of BT customers' phone and Internet connections.
The gang used a key given only to BT employees and contractors to open manhole covers near York and in remote parts of North Yorkshire to get at cables which they cut in two or more locations, before using vehicles to drag long lengths of cables out of the ground.
It cost BT nearly £51,000 to replace the cable stolen in 11 raids between October 2012 and January 2013. The gang were arrested with their tools as they travelled in two vehicles with some of the cable along the A171 between Whitby and Scarborough in January 2013.
Smith pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin, six charges of theft and four of animal cruelty.
His sentence also included six months for four animal cruelty charges to horses that he kept in a field by Clifton Moor that had very little grass and where water was only available at the bottom of a steep slope. They were covered in lice and full of worms and one was close to collapse when rescued by the RSPCA, the court heard.
Nicholas Barker, for Brian Smith, 37, a father-of-four, said he only got involved in heroin dealing to pay off "significant" gambling debts to other members of the travelling community based in Doncaster.
"He feared that if he didn't do as they wanted there would be repercussions for him and possibly his family," he said.
He did not lead the metal theft group where every member was equal.
For his wife Danielle, 28, Robin Myers said she was only following her husband's instructions and was not a gang member.
For Liam Baker, 26, Robert Casey said he had been a heroin addict "on and off" since he was 15 and acted as a drugs courier to pay for his heroin. He had been in prison since his arrest serving a three-year sentence for a burglary committed in December 2012 and had done prison courses so that he could go straight on release.
For Lauren Hughes, 25, Charles Blatchford said Baker had been her boyfriend when police stopped them with 454g of heroin in her handbag. It was her only involvement in the conspiracy.
For Michael Marshall, 38, Chloe Fairley said he was a busker who had been chosen to deal at street level because of his own heroin addiction, which he was trying to conquer.
For Nathan Tetley, 30, Lucy Brown said he had acted as drug courier under pressure from others after police seized cannabis he was growing. They felt he owed him a debt.
For Mark Ella, 39, Derek Duffy said he was only involved in two of the metal thefts and had been paid £20 on each occasion.
For Michael Tillotson, 25, Michael Miller said he had got involved in the metal thefts because he needed to pay big bills as a result of another prosecution.
For Glen Hepburn, 35, Nicholas Cartmell said he had not been involved at the beginning of the thefts. He and his partner had long-term medical problems and a family.
For Elijah Boswell, 27, Jon Gregg said since his arrest he had been trying to go straight and support his family.
The wife of drug baron Brian Smith, Danielle, was given a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years on condition she did 200 hours' unpaid work. Judge Peter Armstrong said she was only following her husband's instructions and had no previous convictions. She admitted three charges of being concerned in the supply of heroin.
Four gang members including Brian Smith admitted conspiracy to supply heroin.
Liam Baker, who was jailed for 15 months, was arrested with his girlfriend Lauren Hughes as they carried 494g of heroin in her handbag in a taxi from Doncaster to York. She was jailed for two years.
Nathan Tetley, who was later caught on the A19 en route to York with 247g of heroin was jailed for three years.
The judge said: "Those who move large quantities of drugs about can only expect condign punishment."
Michael Purnell and Michael Marshall both denied conspiracy to supply heroin but were convicted at a trial.
They operated a drug dealing operation at Purnell's home in Melbourne Street for many users and Marshall, who delivered drugs from the James Street Caravan Site as Smith directed, was jailed for four and a half years.
Purnell was so drowsy in the dock he was taken to the cells early in the hearing and was later taken to hospital for treatment. He will be sentenced on Monday.
Of the 11 thefts carried out by the cable gang, three men apart from Smith admitted taking part in six raids.
They were Michael Tillotson, who was jailed for 33 months including six months previously suspended for other offences, Glen Hepburn, who was jailed for 27 months and Elijah Boswell, who was jailed for two years, Mark Ella admitted two theft expeditions and was jailed for a year.
Seven members of North Yorkshire Police were commended by the judge for their "outstanding work" in bringing the gangs to justice.
They were detective inspector Mark Pearson, in overall charge of the operation, his deputies detective sergeants Nicola Holdon and Judith Smith, detective constables Adam Heatlie and Richard Coultous, analyst Jan Campbell, and civilian staff member Carl Townsley. The operation was run by the force's organised crime unit.