Plot to flood streets with cocaine; Six gang members jailed.
A GANG of six who plotted to flood the streets of North Wales with cocaine bought with cash made from stolen metal are today behind bars.
Former coach driver Kevin Williams, 38, and Terry Powell, 24, both from Wrexham, were caught out by undercover cops with PS250,000 of platinum in their car. The metal was found to have been stolen from Morgan Ceramics in Ruabon. It turned out drug dealer Lee Stoba, 39, had together with Phillip Savin, 60, from Bootle in Liverpool, supplied cocaine to Williams and Powell on about 20 occasions.
Stoba, from Warrington, had been jailed twice before for serious drugs offences, Caernarfon Crown Court heard. He was yesterday jailed for 14 years - the longest sentence of any of the gang members..
Williams, of Bryn Offa, was jailed for eight-and-a-half-years, and Powell, of Watery Road, received eight years.
Apart from Savin, who was jailed for six years, they all admitted the conspiracy. Stoba also admitted handling a sample of platinum stolen in a burglary on an industrial estate at Johnstown, Wrexham, and Williams pleaded guilty to burglary. Williams and Powell admitted a charge of plotting to convert criminal property.
The court was told the stolen platinum was valued at PS250,000 and employee Christopher Roberts, 26, of Clwyd Wen, Wrexham, was the "inside man" who knew where a safe key was located.
Roberts was jailed for two-and-a-half years after admitting burglary in what the judge said was a "significant breach of trust".
Joseph McCafferty, 42, of Llan-y-Pwll, Wrexham, was jailed for 18 months after being convicted by a jury of conspiracy to convert the stolen boxes of platinum. The judge said he had driven to Liverpool with Williams and Powell.
Judge John Rogers QC said Stoba played a "leading role" in the drugs conspiracy. He used nine different mobile phones to avoid arrest and made "substantial financial gain". At least one kilo of cocaine was involved.
The judge said a sample of platinum had been taken to Stoba by Williams, Powell and McCafferty for him to assess its purity and value.
Savin had a significant role with police recovering cocaine worth PS50,000 from him, but he had "no real benefit from his involvement" and his health was poor. Judge Rogers said Williams and Powell were addicted to cocaine.
Stephen Edwards, defending Williams, said he was a former coach driver who gave up his job to spend more time with his family. He became depressed, drank to excess, and began taking cocaine. He agreed to assist in the chain of supply and was given free drugs. Mr Edwards said there was no evidence of trappings of wealth. Williams was now drug-free and had shown remorse.
Tom Watson, representing Powell, said he was heavily addicted to cocaine and expressed remorse. He was a trusted prisoner in Altcourse and planned to turn his life around.
Myles Wilson, defending Mc-Cafferty, said his role was limited and a barrister for Roberts said he had no knowledge of the drugs. Barrister Mark Connor added: "He was to some extent used by others.
"He had initially said no but in a moment of weakness agreed to this plan - he now accepts it is perhaps the biggest mistake of his life. He is full of remorse."
Roberts had got another job as a manager for a coffee shop.
An undercover police operation caught the drugs gang and the prosecution also used telephone evidence against them. Operation Empasm was the investigation into the large scale supply of class A controlled drugs - namely cocaine - sourced from the Merseyside area.
After the case a spokeswoman or North Wales Police said: "The organised crime group, led by Lee Stoba and his right hand man Phillip Savin, arranged for the drugs to be collected from Merseyside by North Wales nominal's Terry Powell and Kevin Williams, for dissemination in the Wrexham area."
"During the investigation platinum valued at PS250,000 was seized from a vehicle driven by Terry Powell and Kevin Williams.
"Further investigations identified the platinum had be stolen during a burglary at Morgan Ceramics during the early hours of February 27 2012.
"Warrants were also executed as part of the operation and drugs with a potential street value of PS51,000 were found at the home address of Phillip Savin, along with PS3,890 in cash and large amounts of mixing agents - PS4,450 was also found during the warrant at Lee Stoba's home address."
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|Publication:||Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)|
|Date:||Apr 6, 2013|
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