SE London and Kent: Police bust massive crime network

The head of an organised crime unit and his gang of criminals, many from south east London, have been sentenced to a total of 138 years in prison following a two year operation.

Ten defendants appeared at Woolwich Court on Thursday, December 10, charged with supplying cocaine, amphetamine and cannabis, while 11 other co-conspirators have already been sentenced.

The massive crime network was taken down by Met Police investigating the import and distribution of 31kg of cocaine, 308kg of amphetamine, 590kg of cannabis resin, 3kg of skunk, 30 cannabis plants and nearly £900,000 in cash.

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Police say they believe these figures “represent a fraction of their trade,” and encrypted Encrochat devices showed around 30 deliveries and possession £750,000 cash in just a typical day.

Matthew Harrod was the head of the crime network.

He tasked his associates, many of whom came from north Kent and south east London, to carry out his illicit activities and thought he was untouchable by police, said detective superintendent Neil Ballard, from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command.

Ballard added that a drawn-out trial could have been so much quicker and saved thousands of taxpayer’s pounds after Harrod “dragged his heels” and was the only person to plead not guilty, despite “oerwleheming evidence” against him.

The full list of those sentenced last week is as follows: 

  • Matthew Harrod, 47, of Kingsway, Hove, East Sussex was sentenced to 22 years’ imprisonment after being found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine, amphetamine and cannabis on 11 November. He had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to breaching his Serious Crime Prevention Order.
  • Paul Clarke, 45, of Horns Lodge Lane, Tonbridge, Kent was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty on 12 March to conspiracy to supply cocaine, amphetamine, cannabis and possession of criminal property (namely £20,000).

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  • John O’Brien, 69, of Bean Road, Greenhithe was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty on 12 March to conspiracy to supply cocaine, amphetamine and cannabis.
  • Lee Butler, 52 (04.12.68) of Clement Hill Road, Hastings, East Sussex was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty on 12 March to conspiracy to supply amphetamine.
  • Tina Hughes, 75 (25.09.45) of Clement Hill Road, Hastings, East Sussex was sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty on 12 March to conspiracy to supply amphetamine. She must wear an electronic tag and abide to a curfew.

 

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  • John Barrett, 40 (15.01.80) of Thicket Road, Upper Norwood refused to attend court but was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty on 9 June to conspiracy to supply cocaine and cannabis and possession of criminal property (namely £13,500 in cash).
  • Lee Taylor, 43 (16.12.76) of Landstead Road, Greenwich refused to attend court but was sentenced to 8 years’ imprisonment in his absence after pleading guilty on 12 March to conspiracy to supply cocaine and possession of criminal property (namely £784,230).
  • Joseph Walker, 33 (18.02.87) of Barrack Road, Christchurch, Dorset was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty on 15 June to conspiracy to supply amphetamine.

They were sentenced to a total of 73 years’ imprisonment, including Hughes’ suspended sentence.

 

During the extensive trial, it was said that:

Harrod was the leading role in the OCN where he directed other co-conspirators and organised the supply of commercial quantities of high purity cocaine, amphetamine and cannabis throughout the conspiracy period; July 2018 to January 2020.

He had substantial links to and influence on others within the conspiracy. There was substantial financial gain from his illicit activities and he used a conventional phone and at least two encrypted phones, despite the terms of his Serious Crime Prevention Order.

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Clarke acted as Harrod’s lieutenant and O’Brien was just below Clarke in the chain of command. Clarke would direct O’Brien and other co-conspirators. Both organised the supply of commercial quantities of high purity cocaine, amphetamine and cannabis throughout the conspiracy period: July 2018 to January 2020.

They had substantial links to and influence over others within the conspiracy and was also benefitting financially from the activities. Both used a conventional phone and at least one encrypted phone.

Barrett and Taylor’s roles were significant operational roles or functions as trusted couriers within the OCN. They were organised by Clarke and O’Brien and met with and made exchanges with other significant members of the OCN. They were involved from at least 30 January 2019 to 14 January 2020.

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Messages on Taylor’s encrypted telephone and the amount of money found and seized from his home address demonstrate his knowledge of the scale of the operation.

On one day he was involved in 30 deliveries and was talking with co-conspirators. He was in possession of £784,230 which had been bundled and split on the day he was arrested.

Walker was also a trusted courier involved in the movement, distribution and storage of the drugs and was organised by Clarke and given the seal of approval by Harrod. Walker was involved in purchasing a van with Clarke and adapting it to include a secret hide.

Butler was also a trusted courier and involved in the storage of amphetamine within the OCN and therefore had an operational function.

He was organised by Clarke and O’Brien having been given the seal of approval by Harrod. He was involved from 14 August 2019 until arrest on 20 January 2020.

He was provided with a van by O’Brien that had been adapted to create a secret hide.

Together with Hughes he conducted a number of deliveries (e.g. 28th, 30th August 2019, 10th October, 27th, 28th November). Found at their beach hut, was a total of 42kgs of amphetamine.

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Together with Hughes, he had use of an encrypted phone provided to him by Clarke.

Detective Superintendent Neil Ballard added: “The complexity of this case doesn’t stop there. 11 other co-conspirators, who were involved in the storing and distributing of these drugs, have already been through the courts and are now spending their rightfully earned time in prison.”

11 other co-conspirators have already been sentenced. They are:

  • Robert Preston, 60, of Chalk Lane, Harlow, Essex pleaded guilty on 28 February 2019 to possession with intent to supply cannabis and amphetamine. He was sentenced on 28 February 2019 to 5 years’ and 3 months imprisonment.
  • Anthony Dann, 50, of Middleton Hall Lane, Brentwood, Essex pleaded guilty on 28 June 2019 to possession with intent to supply cannabis and failure to disclose the PIN code for a device. He was sentenced on 28 June 2019 to 4 years and 6 months.
  • Brian Iwanicki, 44, of Ashbourne Road, Essex pleaded guilty on 28 June 2019 to possession with intent to supply cannabis and failure to disclose the PIN code for a device. He was sentenced on 28 June 2019 to 4 years and 6 months.
  • Anthony Pitts, 58, of Cambridge Drive, Lewisham pleaded guilty on 16 July 2019 to possession with intent to supply cocaine. He was sentenced on 16 July 2019, to 13 years and 6 months imprisonment.
  • Stephen Hopton, 44, of Coghurst hall, Hastings, East Sussex pleaded guilty on 16 July 2019 to possession with intent to supply cocaine and possession of criminal property. He was sentenced on 16 July 2019 to 8 years and 6 months’ imprisonment.
  • Allen Patrick, 45, of Acorn Gardens, Upper Norwood pleaded not guilty to possession with intent to supply cocaine and possession of criminal property and was convicted by a jury on 13 December 2019. He was sentenced on the same day to 6 years’ imprisonment.
  • Lorenc Corbja, 28, of no fixed address pleaded guilty on 23 July 2019 to possession with intent to supply cocaine. He was sentenced on 13 December 2019 to 3 years and 6 months’ imprisonment.
  • Steven Attwood, 56, of Berwick Way, Sevenoaks, Kent pleaded guilty on 2 October 2019 to possession with intent to supply amphetamine and cannabis and to possession of a bladed article and ammonia. He was sentenced on 2 October 2019 to 7 years’ imprisonment.
  • Liam Myant, 33, of Douglas Square, Morden, Surrey pleaded guilty on 1 November 2019 to possession with intent to supply cocaine. He was sentenced on 1 November 2019 to 6 years’ imprisonment.
  • Corey Gooding, 51, of Oakdene Avenue, Chislehurst, Kent pleaded guilty on 01 November 2019 to possession with intent to supply cocaine. He was sentenced on 1 November 2019 to 6 years imprisonment.
  • Thomas Sowerby, 36, of Chalton Street, Camden pleaded guilty on 22 November 2019 to possession of criminal property. He was also wanted on recall to prison. He was sentenced on 22 November 2019 to 8 months’ imprisonment.

+ Nicholas Kakoulli, 25, of Matchless Drive, Woolwich is due to be sentenced on Thursday, 7 January at Woolwich Crown Court. He pleaded guilty on 12 March to conspiracy to supply cocaine and cannabis and being in possession of a bladed article.

Combining all the sentence results together for the whole operation, this totals 138 years and 5 months’ imprisonment.

Concluding, Detective Superintendent Neil Ballard said: “I really hope this result shows the dedication of the Metropolitan Police and our law enforcement partners to tackle the supply and sale of lethal drugs in London and the UK, which we know is closely linked to violence in our communities.

“In the Met, disrupting serious organised crime and violence is at the top of our agenda and we will be relentless in our pursuit of anyone who looks to capitalise or profit from illicit drugs supply.”

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