AN organised crime group was alleged to have run drugs lines to Devon and Cornwall selling £1.25 million worth of heroin and crack cocaine over an 18 months period.
The Liverpool based network involved at least 22 men or women and used holiday parks around the South West as temporary homes for their dealers, Exeter Crown Court was told.
Deliveries were made to seaside towns including Exmouth and Teignmouth and the gang used 36 different phones to control their activities or offer drugs to addicts.
The scale of the operation was outlined at the start of the trial of five men who deny being part of the conspiracy. The jury were told that 14 others have admitted being involved.
Georgie Keating, aged 23, of Cromford Road, Liverpool; Dominic McLoughlin, aged 43, of Chorley Road, Liverpool; James Casey, 43, of River Bank Walk, Colchester; John O’Neill, aged 54, of High Street, Exmouth, and John Ward, aged, 54, of East Cliff, Dawlish, all deny conspiracy to supply heroin and cocaine.
Mr Ray Tully, KC, said the organised crime group started bringing in February 2021 and carried on until police broke up the operation in August last year.
He said drugs worth thousands of pounds and £25,000 cash were seized during a series of vehicle stops in Devon, Cornwall, Liverpool and on roads linking the North West to the South West.
The total value of the conspiracy had been estimated at £1.25 million by police. There were 22 people charged as a result of the inquiry and they all played different roles within the scheme.
He said it was possible to chart the movements of couriers and dealers by linking data which pinpointed the locations of mobile phones and linking it with information from cameras which record number plates on main roads.
Mr Tully said 11 people have pleaded guilty to conspiracy, two to money laundering, and one to possessing drugs with intent to supply.
He said the group used at least one spoofing phone, which was adapted to try and conceal its location, and a total of 36 phones which were changed frequently to try to ‘throw the police off the scent’.
The dealers operated by sending mass messages to dozens of known drug users offering them drugs and telling them how to place orders. They would then be delivered by runners.
The group used a series of nicknames so customers knew they were dealing with the same people when the so-called ‘graft’ phone lines were changed.
Mr Tully said O’Neill ran a branch of the conspiracy in Exmouth and had been tracked going to Liverpool in April 2021. He was involved in six trips in total.
He said: 'The evidence will suggest he might well have been in control of a local drugs line in this part of the world, which we will refer to as the Exmouth drugs line.
'O’Neill will be shown to have been in close and regular contact with the other main players in the case, who were based up in Liverpool.'
The first known courier run was on February 23, 2021 from Liverpool to Teignmouth and the second to Torbay in April. A member of the group booked into a caravan on the Finlake Park site in Chudleigh later that month.
Mr Tully said: 'It is a feature of the case that those travelling from the North West to this area used holiday parks and homes.'
Phone evidence suggested that a member of the group who visited O’Neill in April 2021 went on to Cornwall afterwards.
The trial continues