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West Wales drugs ring – guilty get 61 years

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Smashed: West Wales drug ring (Stock image)

Smashed: West Wales drug ring (Stock image)

SEVENTEEN people were sentenced to a total of 61 years in jail on Friday (Apri 10)  for their involvement in a cocaine supply ring.

The arrests were the result of Operation Redcliff, which targeted the supply of cocaine into south-west Wales.

Nine of the people sentenced were from the Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire area.

Jail sentences totalling 61 years have been handed down today after a “professional and meticulous” police operation trapped a gang running drugs into Pembrokeshire.

The so called “Liverpool Connection” arranged for large amounts of cocaine to be delivered to Milford Haven, Carmarthen and Pembroke Dock.

One drugs “meet” took place at Carmarthen golf club without the club being aware,Swansea crown court was told.

Robin Rouch, prosecuting, said police used cameras fitted with automatic number plate recognition to track the gang’s movements and bugged conversations as part of Operation Redcliff.

The drugs running was “interrupted” in September, 2012, after John Underwood was arrested at Cwmgwili when police stopped his van and found £4,200 worth of cocaine. He was jailed for 18 months but resumed his criminal activities after his release.

The court heard many of the gang had few or no previous convictions and a leading figure in the West Wales end of the operation, David “Jamie” Evans, was a family man who once won a Welsh cap for water polo.

In March 2014, £50,000 worth of cocaine was seized in a car in West Wales and officers from Operation Redcliff began making a series of arrests.

Mr Rouch said, “Those in the conspiracy used mobile phones which were often unregistered and pre-paid.. Amounts of money were paid into bank accounts in West Wales that was then transferred to people living in Merseyside.”

He said it was impossible to be exact about the amount of cocaine supplied between 2012 and 2014 but it was estimated to be worth at least £200,000.

A total of 17 defendants were sentenced over a two day hearing that ended today.

Judge Paul Thomas told them, “People like you who decide to get involved in dealing with large quantities of cocaine do so in the knowledge that if caught they will get long sentences in jail.

“You all took a calculated risk and now that you have lost that particular gamble you will pay the price.”

The Judge praised the Dyfed Powys police officers involved as being “professional and meticulous.”

Judge Thomas described Jamie Evans, aged 42, of Crud y Wawr, St Clears, as the “lynchpin” of the West Wales part of the drugs operation. He was jailed for eight years.

John Underwood, 30, of Coronation Drive, Prescott, Merseyside, was given eight years.

Peter Cummins, 29, from Byron Avenue, Whiston, Merseyside, was given six and a half years for his “significant role”.

Labourer Jenkin Davies, 55, of Bwlch Newydd, Cynwyl Elfed, was given five and a half years for his role as Jamie Evans’s “right hand man” in West Wales.

Richard Houghton, 32, of Ridings Close, St Helens, described as a courier, was jailed for four and a half years.

David Campbell, 58, of Patterson Street, Birkenhead was jailed for three years. He was caught with cocaine worth £50,000.

Greg Mackenzie, 28, of Blaenwaun, Whitland, was jailed for four years and John Fitzgerald, 44, of Prior Ledge Drive, Milford Haven got four and a half years.

Craig Cann, 34, of Trebannog Road, Porth, and Ross Hutchings, 25, of Gordon Street, Ton Pentre, described by Judge Thomas as being “at the Rhondda Valley end of the operation” were each jailed for three years while Thomas Charles Salmon, 33, from Llanmill, Narberth, was jailed for two years and eight months and Emanuel Handford, 23, of Glannant Road, Carmarthen got two years and four months.

They had all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine.

Daniel Gila, 26, of City Road, Haverfordwest, was found guilty of the charge after a trial and he was jailed for five years.

Rebecca Underwood, 28, of Whiston, Merseyside was jailed for 16 weeks, suspended for 12 months for laundering the gang’s money. Judge Thomas said he appreciated she would be left to bring up a young family alone once he had jailed her husband John Underwood.

Mark Tinsley, 32, of Dennett Road, Prescott was ordered to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work for the community for money laundering.

Both, said Judge Thomas, had provided the gang with a valuable service by allowing “large amounts of money” to pass through their bank accounts.

Adam Evans, 27, of Queen Road, Llanelli, got a nine month sentence suspended for a year for the lesser charge of being concerned in the supply of cocaine and Louise Thornton, 27, of Whitemill, Lampeter Velfrey was given 16 months suspended for a year with both being given unpaid work orders.

Detective Inspector Huw Davies of the Serious and Organised Crime team welcomed the sentences.

“They send a clear signal out to the criminal fraternity that drug offences will not be tolerated in the Dyfed-Powys area and officers will do their utmost to bring cases to court,” he said.

“Today’s outcome is the result of a complex and protracted operation conducted by Dyfed-Powys Police into the trafficking of substantial quantities of Class A drugs, namely Cocaine, into the force area, in this case 1 kilo of the drug was recovered.”

“I would encourage anyone who has concerns over the trafficking of drugs to contact local police.”

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The full list of those convicted is as follows:

David James Lloyd Evans b. 01/03/1973 Carmarthen – Conspiracy to supply cocaine – 7 years

Jenkin Anthony Davies b.27/03/1959 Carmarthen – Conspiracy to supply cocaine – 5 ½ years

Greg Ian Mackenzie b.23/02/1986 Narberth – Conspiracy to supply cocaine – 4 years

Thomas Charles Salmon b.18/03/1981 Narberth – Conspiracy to supply cocaine – 32 months

Louise Thornton b.25/04/1986 Narberth – Being concerned in the supply of cocaine – 16 months suspended for 2 years

Richard Houghton b.04/04/1983 St Helens – Conspiracy to supply cocaine – 4 ½ years

David Campbell b. 27/04/1956 Merseyside – Conspiracy to supply cocaine – 3 years

John William Fitzgerald b.23/12/1969 Milford Haven – Conspiracy to supply cocaine – 4 ½ years

John Paul Underwood b.06/07/1983 Merseyside – Conspiracy to supply cocaine – 8 years

Peter Cummins b.14/11/1984 Merseyside – Conspiracy to supply cocaine – 6 ½ years

Daniel Alexander Gila b.134/02/1988Haverfordwest – Conspiracy to supply cocaine – 5 years

Emanuel Lee Hanford b.13/11/1990 – Carmarthen – Conspiracy to supply cocaine – 28 months

Craig Cann b.08/11/1980 Porth – Conspiracy to supply cocaine – 3 years

Ross Hutchings b.30/07/1989 Ton Pentre – Conspiracy to supply cocaine – 3 years

Adam John Evans b.19/08/1988 Treorchy  – Being concerned in the supply of cocaine – 9 months suspended for 2 years

Mark Tinsley b.21/03/1982 Merseyside – Money laundering – converting criminal property – 240 hours community service

Rebecca Jade Underwood b.20/07/1986 – Merseyside – Money laundering – converting criminal property – 4 months suspended for 1 year

 

 

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Ceredigion’s Energy Efficiency work recognised at the Wales Energy Efficiency Awards

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ON June, 17, 2022, Wales Regional Energy Efficiency Awards were held in Cardiff. Ceredigion County Council’s Energy Efficiency Schemes scooped 2 awards.

The Energy Efficiency Awards were introduced to help recognise the fantastic work being undertaken by the energy efficiency sector in Wales. The measures were introduced to help homeowners reduce their energy bills, tackle fuel poverty and reduce Carbon emissions.

Ceredigion County Council have been delivering the ECO Local Authority Flexibility scheme along with the Warm Homes Cozy Ceredigion Scheme for a number of years. These schemes have seen a number of insulation measures and heating systems being installed in properties improving their energy efficiency. With the drive towards renewable heating systems the concentration lately has been on the installation of air source heat pumps.

The Council scooped the top prize for the Regional Council or Local Authority of the Year where one exceptional council in each of the 11 Regional areas of the UK has shown a true commitment to promoting energy efficiency within their region. This award was sponsored by Improveasy.

For this award, the judges look at the impact their work has had within the local community, what their customer and local community have to say about the council, what level of expertise the council has within its own teams and what priority the council gives to tackling fuel poverty within its current plans.

The Council also won the Regional Vulnerable Customer Support Organisation of the Year having shown a true commitment to improving the lives of vulnerable people within their region. This award was sponsored by Consumer Energy Solutions.

Councillor Matthew Vaux, is the Cabinet Member responsible for the Housing Service. He said: “I would like to congratulate the Housing team for their hard work and success at the Regional Energy Efficiency Awards this year. With the current rise in fuel costs and the increase in cost of living, this is a fantastic achievement for the Council’s housing team in showcasing that they are helping our residents save energy and combat fuel poverty.”

Find more information about Energy Efficiency Schemes on the Council’s website: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/housing/financial-assistance/energy-efficiency-schemes/

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The Welsh Government launches Basic Income pilot scheme

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FROM 1 July 2022, more than 500 people leaving care in Wales will be offered £1600 each month (before tax) for two years to support them as they make the transition to adult life.

Launched by First Minister Mark Drakeford, it is hoped the pilot will set care leavers on a path to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.

The radical approach has trust, autonomy and respect at its centre. It will provide independence and security to people who have faced immense challenges during their childhood, giving them greater control and empowering them to make decisions about their future.

The £20 million pilot, which will run for three years, will be evaluated to carefully examine its effect on the lives of those involved

Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt said the scheme is a direct investment in the lives and futures of some of Wales’ most vulnerable young people.

Those taking part in the pilot will also receive individual advice and support to help them manage their finances and develop their financial and budgeting skills.

Local authorities will play a key role in supporting them throughout the pilot. Voices from Care Cymru will also work with the young people to give them advice on wellbeing, education, employment and help them plan their future after the pilot.

To launch the scheme, First Minister Mark Drakeford, Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt and Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan met with people taking part in the pilot, and young people who themselves have been in care, to talk about the impact this support will have on peoples’ lives.

They discussed how they hope the financial stability will give people the opportunity to make positive life choices as they leave care and provide a more solid foundation from which to build their adult lives.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We want all our young people to have the best possible chance in life and fulfil their full potential. The state is the guardian of people leaving care and so has a real obligation to support them as they start their adult life.

“Our focus will be on opening up their world to all its possibilities and create an independence from services as their lives develop.

“Many of those involved in this pilot don’t have the support lots of people – myself included – have been lucky enough to enjoy as we started out on our path to adulthood.

“Our radical initiative will not only improve the lives of those taking part in the pilot, but will reap rewards for the rest of Welsh society. If we succeed in what we are attempting today this will be just the first step in what could be a journey that benefits generations to come.”

Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said: “We’re in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis like no other and we therefore need new ways of supporting people who are most in need.

“Our Basic Income pilot is an incredibly exciting project giving financial stability to a generation of young people. Too many people leaving care face huge barriers to achieving their hopes and ambitions; such as problems with getting a safe and stable home, to securing a job and building a fulfilling career. This scheme will help people live a life free of such barriers and limitations.

“We will carefully evaluate the lessons learnt from the pilot. Listening to everyone who takes part will be crucial in determining the success of this globally ambitious project. We will examine whether Basic Income is an efficient way to support society’s most vulnerable and not only benefit the individual, but wider society too.”

Tiff Evans of Voices from Care Cymru, speaking on behalf of young people who have experienced care, said: “This is a brilliant opportunity for care leavers in Wales. It is good to see that care leavers in Wales are being thought of and Welsh Government are providing this opportunity for them as young people to become responsible, control some parts of their lives and have a chance to thrive and be financially independent.

“We thank Welsh Government for investing in them and their future and we look forward to other changes and developments for care experienced young people in Wales in order for them to reach life aspirations.”

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Ceredigion man living in Ireland sentenced after involvement in illegal meat operation

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A CEREDIGION man living in Ireland has been extradited and sentenced after his involvement in illicit farming and trading of meat that was unfit for human consumption.

Robert Thomas, 45, was found to be part of an organised crime group (OCG), who were involved in running an illegal meat operation, where “smokies” were being prepared for human consumption. The production of “smokies” involves the illegal slaughter of sheep which, as part of the production process, have their fleece retained on the carcasses and burnt with blow torches to impart a smoked flavour to the meat. This process is illegal in the UK and many European countries.

The initial prosecution was undertaken by Ceredigion County Council in 2015, but due to Mr Thomas persistence in evading justice it has taken 7 years for the proceedings to reach a conclusion. The prosecution involved Mr Thomas and another male person from Ceredigion, who is still wanted on warrant in respect of the charges.

At Swansea Crown Court in December 2015, Thomas was sentenced to a 28-week term of imprisonment, suspended for two years and was ordered to undertake 200 hours of unpaid work and ordered confiscation proceedings to try and identify and recover any assets obtained by Thomas, through his illegal activities. That confiscation investigation was undertaken by officers in the Tarian Regional Economic Crime Unit (RECU) assisted by Ceredigion County Council. Various Proceeds of Crime Act hearings took place during which Thomas gave evidence on oath that his assets and income were minimal.

He declared that he had two old cars and was earning just £40 per week working for his parents. He also claimed that he had two UK bank accounts with no money in them and produced bank statements to prove so. Over the course of three years, Thomas persistently denied having any more than this, and in April 2017 he failed to appear at court.

Further investigations revealed that Thomas held a number of bank accounts and held property and land in Ireland.

A European Arrest Warrant was subsequently obtained, and he was finally located in Ireland and arrested in December 2021 by the Irish authorities and extradited to the UK in February 2022.

On Monday 13 June 2022, Thomas appeared in Bristol Crown Court having previously entered a guilty plea to a charge of perjury. At sentencing, His Honour Judge Cullen described Thomas’ actions as ‘a considered lie and a practiced lie’. He also said that giving sworn evidence to a Judge was a serious matter which could only be dealt with by an immediate imprisonment and requires a significant custodial sentence.

Thomas was sentenced to 22 months imprisonment for perjury and for breach of a Community Order, he was sentenced to 2 months imprisonment to run consecutively, making a total of 24 months imprisonment.

Councillor Mathew Vaux, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member for Public Protection Services, said: “This case has shown that regulatory services will work together effectively in partnership in order to bring justice for these serious crimes. The illegal trade in “smokies” is a serious public health risk, as the meat is often infected with diseases and parasites that could pass to those people who eat the meat. The animals are also killed inhumanely with no regard to their welfare, which is against the principles of high animal welfare held by the farming community of Ceredigion County Council.”

The proceeds of Crime Act proceedings have not been concluded as Thomas has not fully discharged his liabilities under the Order which the Court concluded amounted to a criminal benefit sum of over £200,000. Thomas will therefore be subject to further legal proceedings.

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