MEMBERS of a drugs gang who could have flooded the streets of Gloucester with £1.25million of cocaine have been jailed for more than 55 years.
Rodney Brissett headed up the Gloucester end of the organisation, which was bringing in high purity cocaine from Leicester, before cutting it down and selling it on.
The gang of 10, who were part of a “professional and sophisticated” set up, were said to be brought down by elaborate police surveillance and meticulous searches of their phone records.
Brissett, Mohammed Tagari, Skender Gashi, Simone Cicilloni, Richard Hoskins, Kieran Cox, Aaron Warmington, Kyle Silk, Mark Jones and Pellumb Gjermeni, were jailed for a total of 55 years and seven months, after all but Tagari, who was found guilty at trial, admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine.
Bristol Crown Court heard the gang took delivery of four possible consignments of drugs before police swooped on them March 27, last year.
Officers discovered one kilo worth of cocaine, worth £43,000 and with a 73 per cent purity, as well as 30 kilograms of benzocaine used to cut the class A drug, during their six month operation, which started in January 2013.
Prosecutor Simon Burns told the court the amount of cutting agent in the gang’s possession, with the right amount of cocaine, would have a potential street value of up to £1.25million.
He said: “This was an established drugs enterprise. The crown alleges this was up and running from the beginning. It was established. It was professional and it was sophisticated.
“The system was those at the top avoided getting their hands dirty.
“This was based on elaborate surveillance. Many have multiple mobile phones – both clean and dirty.
"Brissett was orchestrating events in Gloucester. But the crown says this network was well established and they knew each other very well.”
Mr Burns said Brissett was seen on surveillance on his bike to get "nimbly around Gloucester" without being followed by police.
He told the court Silk sent texts to Brissett referring to him as "boss".
Defending for Brissett, Joe Maloney, said he denied any involvement before February that year.
He said: "This is a man who has never been involved with something like this.
"He accepts his involvement in the conspiracy."
Mr Maloney told the court no drugs had been exchanged prior to the kilo he was caught with, saying "trust needed to be built up, like in a normal business".
Sentencing Brissett, Judge Michael Longman said he was in a position of influence at the Gloucester end and a good customer for those in Leicester.
He told him: “You played a leading role and that is clear by virtue of the seniority at the Gloucester end.”
Tagari, who had known Brissett since childhood, was said to have been relaying the orders and organising the carriage of drugs. He denied the cocaine conspiracy before being found guilty at trial and admitted also being part of another conspiracy to supply cannabis.
The court heard he had previously served an 11-year sentence for importing heroin.
Defending for Gashi, Siza Agha, said he was working for others and organising the couriers, but the judge said he was playing a senior role at the Leicester end.
The court heard the others had been foot soldiers in the gang, with most not making much benefit from their criminal activities nor leading lavish lifestyles.
Dad Silk, who also admitted production of cannabis, was said to have seen a niche in supplying the benzocaine and always wanted to morally disassociate himself from the cocaine.
Defending for Jones, Nicola Colwill, said he had been a "prize idiot" and extremely gullible by letting his life-long friend Brissett use his flat without asking any questions.
Jones also admitted possession with intent to supply £6,000 fluoromethcathinone, a synthetic amphetamine type drug.
Warmington, who previously worked at the Walls Ice Cream factory in Gloucester, also admitted the production of cannabis, as well as doing one trip to Grimsby to pick up the benzocaine.
Talking of the benzocaine, Mr Burns told the judge: “It beggars belief that benzocaine can be sourced and so easily bought in that quantity." The drug is commonly used by dentists to numb gums.
Cox and Hoskins were both described as drugs and benzocaine couriers. Cox was said to be on the periphery of the gang with no influence, while Hoskins denied ever coming into contact with cocaine.
The authorities will also be seeking Serious Crime Prevention Orders against Brissett and Tagari.
Proceeds of Crime investigations will now take place into the finances of Brissett, Tagari, Cicilloni, Silk, Gashi and Gjermeni.
NAME: Rodney Brissett, 27, of Widden Street, Gloucester
ROLE: ‘The Boss’ as referred to by other members of the drugs gang. He initial claimed he was just a courier, but later admitted his bigger role.
SENTENCE: Jailed for eight years six months
NAME: Skender Gashi, 30, of Dukes Close in Wigston, Leicester
ROLE: A prominent figure in the Leicester drugs world working with the Gloucester gang.
SENTENCE: Jailed for seven years six months
NAME: Mohammed Tagari, 43, of Blenheim Road in Gloucester
ROLE: He was the facilitator and the link between Brissett and Gashi. He pleaded not guilty to the conspiracy charge, but was convicted by a jury.
SENTENCE: Jailed for 13 years
NAME: Kyle Silk, 26 of Linden Road in Gloucester
ROLE: Helped store and mix the cocaine.
SENTENCE: Jailed for six years
NAME: Mark Jones, 28, of The Rushes in Tuffley
ROLE: Played a part in stashing, cutting and mixing the drugs.
SENTENCE: Jailed for three years six months
NAME: Richard Hoskins, 22, of Howard Street in Gloucester
ROLE: Also helped to stash, cut and mix the drugs.
SENTENCE: Jailed for three years
NAME: Kieran Cox, 22, of Hartland Road in Gloucester
ROLE: Worked with the gang to stash, mix and cut the drugs.
SENTENCE: Jailed for three years three months
NAME: Simon Cicilloni, 42, of Boulter Crescent, Wigston in Leicester
ROLE: A courier, who often made journeys of 200 miles and was found with a quarter of a kilo of cocaine.
SENTENCE: Jailed for four years six months
NAME: Pellumb Gjermeni, 41, of No Fixed Abode
ROLE: A one off courier of the drugs found in a van with £43,000 in cash. He pleaded guilty to his part in the conspiracy.
SENTENCE: Jailed for three years and four months at an earlier hearing.
NAME: Aaron Warmington, 27, of Elmleaze in Gloucester
ROLE: Admitted collecting benzocaine, a cutting agent.
SENTENCE: Jailed for three years
Detective Inspector Neil Carpenter said: "This was a painstaking investigation that demanded many different methods of police work. The strength of our case can be noted in the fact all but one of the defendants pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.
“The more we investigated the more we were able to peel back the different layers of this criminal network. What we uncovered was a serious crime gang with some very significant players in the drugs trade in Gloucester and beyond, making huge profits off the back of other people's misfortune.
“Brissett, who owned a shop in Eastgate Street in the city was the main player. He tried to keep an air of respectability and let others do the dirty work but he seemingly couldn’t resist taking personal delivery of one of the packages.
“We were on hand straight away to intercept him when he did so and recover the drugs. When we stopped the van that delivered the package to him we found over £40,000 in banknotes in a shoe box, which gives you a snapshot of the scale of the criminality.
"Brissett immediately tried to give the impression of being a foot soldier for others in the operation but through detailed and dedicated investigative work we have shown that this was just not the case and we have been able to present a more accurate level of offending to the court.
“This successful prosecution will have made a huge dent in the drugs trade here in Gloucestershire and its all thanks to the dedication of my team, who spent months meticulously carrying out their inquiries. Several persons are still wanted for questioning in relation and I can reassure people we are determined to find them.
"We hope the sentences send out a very clear message to would be drug dealers looking to step into the void. The Force has a good track record of targeting these gangs and if we target you we will catch you and you will go to prison.
"I can reassure people we will now be going after the money this group made from their activity via a proceeds of crime hearing and are seeking Serious Crime Prevention Orders on key people to restrict offending potential when they are released from prison."