Three Ripley men face jail for their roles in a £48 million drug ring which imported a legal pain killer found in cough drops to cut cocaine.
David Radford, 45, of Heath Road, Neil Riley, 36, of Butterley Mews, and Thomas Dormer, 23, of Warmwells Lane, were convicted of conspiracy to supply class A drugs at Preston Crown Court last week, along with nine other men. All three pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in September.
The trio were snared after a seven-month covert operation was launched following a tip off from the UK Border Agency which tracked the importation from China of 600 kilos of a legal drug called Benzocaine, which is legitimately used by dentists and vets but is more commonly used as a cutting agent for cocaine, to addresses in Ripley and Burnley.
Detective Chief Inspector Sean Dawson, of Lancashire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit, told the News how Radford, Riley and Dormer received up to 50kgs of benzocaine at a time to their homes in Ripley, which they sent on to Manchester.
He said: “These men did not just import the benzocaine, which itself is not illegal, but our evidence proved they had direct links with cocaine and amphetamine distribution in Ripley.
“There is no doubt that the evidence we gathered help secure conviction for all 11 convicted of the crimes.
“This is a major result for us and has taken drugs off the streets of Derbyshire and further afield and from a public protection point of view shows the people of the county we are working hard to combat the blight of drugs.”
Dormer was arrested on August 18 last year coming back from Middleton. Radford and Riley were arrested on September 28 after meeting a courier at Derby train station.
Mr Dawson added: “The purity of the cocaine was very low. Dealers are greedy and they will reduce the amount of the drug to boost their profits. Because the consistency of cocaine and benzocaine is so similar users would find it hard to tell apart.”
Detective Inspector Graham Gallagher said: “We worked with colleagues in SOCA, the UK Border Agency and Derbyshire Constabulary to break the chain of supply that was bringing these cutting agents into the country to be mixed with cocaine.
“A significantly large amount of a cutting agent has been prevented from being mixed with illegal drugs.”