CRIME DOES NOT PAY; DRUGS THE REAL STORY.
THEY were major players in the Teesside drugs underworld with the trappings that come with serious wealth.
But they were jailed and many have had their wealth stripped from them by the law.
Cleveland Police today identifies the 10 major drug dealers dealt with in recent years who ended up behind bars.
Det Insp Mel Ashley, head of Middlesbrough drugs squad, said that these dealers may have once appeared to the community as "untouchable" but justice caught up with them in the end.
"Quite a few of these people who have got themselves involved in drugs tend to appear to be untouchable and I think some of the public perceive them to be untouchable," he said.
"But it proves, with the right investigation, they are not untouchable, they do make mistakes, and if we do our jobs properly and the courts do their jobs properly, we do get results."
Det Insp Ashley said some of these big-time dealers show off the wealth that their evil trade generates.
"Some of them do have lavish lifestyles, they go around in nice cars. They need to find somewhere to launder the money.
"One common theme that comes through with them is the purchase of houses, shops and businesses.
"Sometimes they make that much money they don't know what to spend it on.
"They often push it out into property but there's all sorts of different ways of laundering money."
Once an investigation is under way, specialised detectives track the financial path of their drugs money.
The Proceeds of Crime Act is then used to strip away their wealth.
The powerful act enables the police to continue to revisit the criminal's finances to ensure that all of their criminal gains are obtained by the state.
Insp Ashley said the public's information is crucial in getting the big dealers behind bars.
"Without the public, we wouldn't have that information. All the investigations into the people we have been talking about have all started with the public, they start the lines of inquiry."
How you can help to fight drugs
AS part of the Evening Gazette's drugs week, we are encouraging residents who see drug-dealing in their communities to contact Crimestoppers with information which will be useful to the police.
Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Comment: Page 24
BREAKING THE NEWS: How the Gazette has reported drug dealers being brought to justice; TAKEN: DI Mel Ashley with some drugs seized in raids Picture by MICHELLE MADDISON