Crime gang involved in drugs, guns and ‘dirty’ money jailed for 130 years
October 17, 2014, 4:01 pm
Fourteen people have been jailed following an investigation by TITAN – the North West Regional Crime Unit – that netted £1.2m, heroin and cocaine worth more than £200,000 and a sawn-off shotgun.
The investigation ran for approximately six months and focused on an organised crime group, predominantly from the Leigh area, who laundered large amounts of cash and were involved in the sale and supply of significant quantities of drugs.
James Andrew Close (06/10/1983), of Cloisters Avenue, Leigh, admitted conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to supply cocaine. He was sentenced to a total of 13 years and nine months.
James Alan Gibson (08/03/1985), of HarvestWay, Leigh, admitted conspiracy to launder money and was found guilty of conspiracy to supply heroin. He was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison.
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Patrick John Roach (05/01/1982), of Bright Street, Leigh, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply heroin and admitted to possession of a prohibited weapon (sawn-off shotgun), possession of a firearm when prohibited and possession of ammunition. He was sentenced to a total of 10 and a half years in prison.
Simon Fowler (31/03/1976), of Princess Elizabeth Way, Cheltenham, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply heroin. He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
Michael Siddeley (05/06/1993), of Palace Grove, Leigh, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply heroin. He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
Michael Nicolls (20/01/1979), of Evesham Road, Worcester, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply heroin. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
Richard Johnston (30/07/1975), of Evesham Road, Worcester, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply heroin. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
Shaun Smith (29/08/1987), of Carders Close, Leigh, admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine. He was sentenced to four years and five months in prison.
David Knight (24/12/1980), of Carders Close, Leigh, admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine. He was sentenced to four years and five months in prison.
Anthony Smith (13/11/1981), of Wyndham Avenue, Swinton, admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine. He was sentenced to 12 years and eight months in prison.
Sam Reynolds (22/01/1975), of Mardale Close, Atherton, admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine. He was sentenced to six and a half years in prison.
Kevin O’Leary (05/06/1959), of Lilley Road, Liverpool, admitted conspiracy to launder money. He was sentenced to three years and seven months.
Christopher Coppell (23/04/1980), of Stanley Drive, Leigh, admitted conspiracy to launder money. He was sentenced to four years and 10 months in prison.
Boyd Gibson (17/12/1957), of Ribble Grove, Leigh, admitted conspiracy to launder money and drugs offences. He was jailed for 27 months.
On 9 May 2013, officers from TITAN observed Christopher Coppell and Kevin OLeary meet on a quiet street corner in Leigh, with Coppell handing over two large holdalls to OLeary.
OLearys transit van was stopped and £541,895 was found hidden in an elaborate concealment controlled by a secret switch. A number of mobile telephones were seized, which on examination showed that James Close had orchestrated the exchange.
On 22 May 2013, officers again watched Christopher Coppell meet with Boyd in a side street in Leigh. There was a two way exchange and police followed Coppell home and searched his house. Inside they recovered £470,395. Set up in his spare bedroom was a sophisticated money counting and packaging operation.
Officers also searched Boyd Gibsons home and Mercedes Vito van. More than £150,000 was recovered from the van, again concealed in an elaborate, electronically controlled concealment and more than £6,000 and a large number of mobile phones were found secreted about the house.
Significantly, a fingerprint belonging to James Gibson was found on the access button of the concealment.
Again mobile telephones were analysed and it was seen that James Close had been involved in organising the exchange.
On 25 September 2013, Patrick Roach, James Gibson and Michael Siddeley meet with Simon Fowler, a drug courier from the Gloucester area. They met him at a McDonalds restaurant outside Leigh however they could not source drugs for him that day so he stayed overnight at a nearby hotel.
The next day they gave him a package of what he believed was ½ kilo of heroin, it was in fact largely adulterated with just a small amount of heroin on the outside of the package.
Fowler was arrested and the package recovered.
On 17 October 2013, Patrick Roach was stopped in his VW van in the early evening. In the rear a Converse boot bag containing a sawn-off shotgun and a number of shotgun shells for the weapon were recovered.
On 30 October 2013, Anthony Smith met with Sean Smith and David Knight in a VW Caddy van in a cul-de-sac in a quiet area of Swinton, Manchester, where he handed over a kilo of cocaine.
Shortly after he returned to the same area and handed over another kilo of cocaine to Sam Reynolds.
Police were on hand to stop both cars; however Reynolds drove away from the police. Following a brief pursuit he lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a petrol station.
Sean Smith’s house was searched and £80,000 recovered.
On 28 November 2013, James Gibson and Michael Siddeley drove to the Staffordshire area and meet Michael Nicolls and Richard Johnston. An exchange of cash took place and Gibson and about £4,000 was later found in his car.
Detective Superintendent Jason Hudson, head of operations for TITAN, said: “James Close was effectively the patriarch of a crime gang involved in criminality that spanned dirty cash, drugs and firearms.
“These men and their associates are involved in crime for the sole purpose of making money, so to hit them so hard and so deep in the pocket by recovering £1.2m – that we believe to have been amassed entirely through their criminal enterprises – is a massive result.
“We have also taken off the streets considerable quantities of drugs and perhaps most significantly, a shotgun, that would undoubtedly have been used to commit further violent offences at some point.
“This weapon obviously has the potential to maim or kill so it is no exaggeration to safe the streets, particularly around Leigh where this gang mostly operated, are much safer.
“I must praise the investigation and prosecution team, whose professionalism and tenacity has been instrumental in dismantling and bringing to justice a violent criminal group.
“We will now utilise the legislation available to us under the Proceeds of Crime Act to strip them further of their ill-gotten gains.”