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Gang boss made pounds 3m from drugs in two months.

Byline: By ALED BLAKE Western Mail

The lavish lifestyle of a drugs baron who received pounds 3m in eight weeks was revealed yesterday when his final gang member was convicted. Sentences totalling 121 years have been handed out to the gang members, which can now be reported after three years of restrictions were lifted. Gang leader Darren Owen, 41, from Tonteg near Ponty- pridd, lived a life of luxury - buying executive cars for himself and his girlfriend and making a pounds 1m cash offer for a house in the Vale of Glamorgan.: FROM PAGE 20: Drugs gang made so much money they complained about having to count it all:It operated like a legitimate business with gang leader Darren Owen getting up at 8am each day for a full day's work. The 41-year-old from Tonteg, near Pontypridd, headed a drugs gang which made millions of pounds supplying Class A and B drugs throughout South Wales. And today - after three years of court cases and following yesterday's final conviction - we can finally report on how Owen: bought executive cars for himself and his girlfriend; laundered money through property deals - offering pounds 1m cash for a house in the Vale of Glamorgan; rented a luxury Cardiff Bay apartment for his girlfriend Kate Louise Wilde; needed a counting machine for the enormous amounts of cash he was netting through his drugs dealing - even complaining about the chore; made an astonishing pounds 3m in the last eight weeks of the 22-strong gang's existence. Sentences totalling 121 years have so far been handed out to 20 members after a National Crime Squad operation. Detective Inspector Dick Tumelty, part of the team which busted the gang, said, 'Owen was a man living way beyond his means with executive cars and he enjoyed expensive holidays and a lavish lifestyle with his girlfriend Kate. He laundered his money through property deals and even made an offer to buy a house for pounds 1m in cash. 'He also rented a luxury apartment for Kate at Adventurers Quay in Cardiff Bay and it was from there that he ran his drug trafficking operation. He treated this as a business, getting up at 8am and working a full day.' Owen, of Church Road, Tonteg, headed the organised gang. He was jailed for 16 years. Regional managers were responsible for distributing Class A and B drugs in their areas. Detectives from the National Crime Squad's Welsh branch launched Operation Capsule in May 2002 and extensive inquiries were carried out in South Wales and the West Midlands. Girlfriend Wilde, 32, who was sentenced to seven years, assisted with the business' day-to-day running, including general administration, counting money and helping Owen hide the vast amounts of illegal profits. He had a Jaguar XJR with the personalised plates DAR3N and bought her a Mercedes SLK with plates which read B9MBY. DI Tumelty added, 'So substantial were the cash sums they had to count each day that they used a counting machine and even then were heard to complain of the chore. In the last eight weeks of the network's existence, Owen received around pounds 3m in cash. 'His drug supply routes have been wiped out now though thanks to the hard work and dedication of our detectives.' Owen's network began to fall apart in July 2002 when officers arrested four Coventry men who had been supplying him with drugs. Business premises on Walsgrave Road, Coventry, were raided and 80 kilos of amphetamines and 15 kilos of cannabis seized. They received sentences totalling 15 years six months. The Hiscox brothers, Michael, 29, and Paul, 30, of Henshaw Street, Port Talbot, were the next to be arrested, in August 2002. They were found in possession of nine ounces of cocaine and were jailed three years six months and six years respectively. Glen Baker, 41, of Albion Court, Cilfynydd, who gave them the cocaine, evaded capture at the time but was later caught. He was sentenced to four years for conspiracy to supply cocaine. DI Tumelty said, 'After the Hiscox brothers were arrested Owen realised we were on to him and tried to leave the country with Wilde. She was arrested but he succeeded and fled to France. During a search of his house in Church Road we found pounds 10,000 cash and a handgun containing ammunition. 'He left his ledger of recent drug dealing activity and a list of phone numbers in his car. This provided officers with a day-by-day record of what he had supplied, for how much, to whom, what had been paid and how much was owed. It was in code but in a simple form.' The ledger showed that between May 20, 2002, and July 31, 2002, Owen supplied eight-and-a-half kilos of cocaine, 60,000 ecstasy tablets, 56 kilos of amphetamines, four and a half tonnes of cannabis resin and nine kilos of cannabis. The total value of the drugs was pounds 3.8m. 'He received pounds 3.4m in cash during the same period from the regional managers and dealers he supplied drugs to. Recorded conversations revealed though that he had been drug trafficking at this level for two years so he could have made millions and millions during that time period,' said DI Tumelty. Detectives eventually tracked Owen down and in February 2003 he was arrested by French police in Perpignan in possession of pounds 71,000 cash attempting to cross the border into Spain. He was extradited in December 2004 and in September 2005 was convicted of conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs. Wilde was jailed for her role in the same conspiracy back in April 2003. Yesterday, the final two members of the network were dealt with for money laundering offences. Gary Rogers, 44, of Lansbury Crescent, Maesteg, pleaded guilty in October 2005, and Michael Anthony Richards, 44, of Tudor Lodge, Bonvilston, was found guilty following the trial which finished yesterday. DI Tumelty said, 'Owen and his cohorts thought they could make easy money through drug trafficking but now they've been put behind bars for a long time and I hope this sends out a strong message to others who are tempted to do the same. 'Our work does not stop here though as we actively seek to recover their assets. The financial investigation is ongoing and so far we have been successful in obtaining confiscation orders totalling nearly pounds 530,000.': THE GANG MEMBERS:Paul Richards, 47, of Bryntirion, Mountain Ash, was a regional manager and received nine years. Jason Baker, 34, of East View, Brythdir, Bargoed, who was Owen's right-hand man, was also a regional manager and was sentenced to eight years. Mark Williams, 39, of Pearson Crescent, Pontypridd, was one of Owen's dealers and he received four years six months. Anthony Williams, 31, of Penybryn, Caerphilly, was jailed for seven years for his role as a regional manager. Dorian Britten, 47, of Heol Pentwyn, Cardiff, received 550 kilos of cannabis resin from Owen and was sentenced to seven years. Andrew Green, 41, of Cropthorn House, Trelewis, was also a regional manager and was sent down for six years. Patrick Callaghan, 39, of Hanbury Road, Bargoed, was a dealer in the Gwent area who was jailed for six years. John Griffiths, 39, of High View Way, Pontypridd, who worked as a doorman, was supplied with ecstasy tablets and cocaine. He was sentenced to six years. Lee Cullen, 37, of Pinewood Avenue, Pontypridd, was another one of Owen's dealers and received five years. Michael Rees, 37, of Carmen St, Maesteg, acted as a gopher for Owen and ran errands. He was jailed for three years six months. Andrew Rogers, 35, of Lansbury Close, Maesteg, left the country before officers could arrest him. Later arrested by Dutch Police for drugs and firearms offences. On completion of his sentence he was extradited and in September this year he was sent down for seven years. Gary Rogers, 44, of Lansbury Crescent, Maesteg, who is Andrew's uncle, pleaded guilty to money laundering in October 2005. Yet to be sentenced. Michael Anthony Richards, 44, of Tudor Lodge, Bonvilston, was found guilty following his trial which finished yesterday. Yet to be sentenced.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 2, 2006
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