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Byline: By BEN ROSSINGTON Crime Reporter

A pounds 3M DRUG-DEALING ring was smashed after a police surveillance operation across Merseyside.

And one of the men suspected of being involved in the organisation that allegedly flooded the region with heroin, cocaine and ecstasy was Mark Richardson.

Richardson is the brother of Tony Richardson, the fiance of Liverpool TV actress and singer Jennifer Ellison.

Mark Richardson, 22, is accused of conspiring to supply Class A drugs and was remanded in custody.

He and eight others, aged between 18 and 31, were arrested by officers this month at the culmination of a two-year operation.

Police tracked the alleged dealers as they picked up and dropped off drugs around Merseyside, watching and recording their activities.

They slowly built up a profile of the gang and were able to identify the alleged main players.

Several raids were carried out on a number of addresses across Merseyside during the operation, leading police to uncover large stashes of illegal substances thought to have been destined for the streets.

The police Matrix team was set up in 2005 to tackle serious crime including gun offences, cash-in-transit robberies, gangland violence and drug dealing.

Since it was formed by Chief Constable Bernard Hogan-Howe, Matrix officers have used a mix of undercover and intelligence-led operations to bring gunrunners, drug dealers and armed robbers to justice.

A spokeswoman for Merseyside police said: "Following a two-year investigation into the supply and distribution of Class A drugs, nine men have been arrested by the specialist Matrix team.

"During the course of the investigation, the force has recovered heroin, cocaine and ecstasy with an estimated street value of pounds 3m.

"All of those arrested and charged have now been put before the courts."

A spokesman for TV and stage star Ellison, 23, said: "Jennifer has nothing to do with Tony's family."

All nine men are due to appear at Liverpool crown court next month.


MOVING IN: Matrix officers, whose two-year surveillance led to the arrests
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 27, 2007
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