Deeside: Liverpool-based gang used lie detectors, threats and drug ‘hotline’

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Media captionThe judge described it as a “sophisticated operation” run from the Walton area of Liverpool

Eighteen people have been jailed for their part in a gang that flooded north Wales with drugs.

They were arrested in September 2019 as part of the largest operation of its type ever carried out by North Wales Police.

A judge at Mold Crown Court described it as a “sophisticated operation”, involving encrypted mobile phones, lie detectors and even a plot to attack a former gang member who had fallen out of favour.

Police seized drugs with a street value of £2.1m.

The reach of the gang, based in Liverpool, stretched to Aberdeen and Cornwall.

It was an operation described as a classic example of a “county lines” conspiracy.

The group behind the supply, led by Colin Jones, were violent and were specifically targeted by police due to the threat posed to public safety.

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North Wales Police

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Colin Jones and Richard Anderson met to exchange a white Mercedes car for cocaine in October 2018

Officers had spent nearly three years investigating the gang, right to the very top.

Colin Jones, based in Walton in Liverpool, was described as a drugs wholesaler who rarely got his hands dirty.

When he was arrested, police found he had nine phones, and two encrypted devices. He hired lie detector specialists to check out his colleagues.

As well as selling drugs, he swapped them for sports cars.

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North Wales Police

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Anthony Stagg and Tony Stagg in Towyn to meet Colin Jones in August 2018

Colin Jones had a team of call handlers who answered what the gang called “the Echo Line”.

In a three-month period in 2018, the hotline took over 100,000 calls. Police estimated it was selling several thousand pounds of drugs a day.

Drugs were also sent up and down the UK, sometimes in packages sent from local post offices in Liverpool.

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Media captionWhat are “county lines” drug gangs?

At one point the violence was turned on one of their former conspirators. Colin Jones and David Rawling were secretly recorded talking to an unknown hit man arranging an attack on Lee Murray.

Officers stepped in and stopped the attack, but believed a gun would have been involved.

‘Significant victory’

Judge Niclas Parry spent three days sentencing the gang. He said they had controlled a significant portion of the drugs trade in Deeside, casting a blight on the community.

Colin Jones was sentenced to 21 years in total with the other gang members given sentences from four to 15 and a half years.

Police say it is a significant victory against the supply of drugs from big cities into north Wales – but it remains a fight that will continue in the months to come.

BBC News