West Bromwich drugs network ringleader jailed for nine years
A West Bromwich man has been jailed for running a drugs network from the Black Country into market and spa towns – as police continue to crackdown on County Lines drugs gangs.
Ringleader Nicholas Ward, aged 32, was among five jailed at Worcester Crown Court on Tuesday for their involvement in the network.
Ward ran the 'Nathan' line from his home in Meadow Avenue, in West Bromwich, and employed runners to fulfil orders taken on his drugs hotline.
A covert police sting by the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) and West Mercia Police identified Ward as the man behind the chain – supplying more than 80 'Nathan' line 'customers' in Malvern and Ledbury.
It is estimated Ward made up to £75,000 in a matter of months before being arrested on March 12 last year, when police spotted him driving through the St Peter's district of Worcester, en-route to Malvern.
He bolted from the car, but was arrested three hours later – covered in mud after hiding in bushes – in a Tesco store car park. Crucially, in his desperation to evade capture, Ward left his drug dealer phone behind in his car – giving detectives an insight into the extent of his dealing.
Enquiries identified Adrian Tipping and John Kettle – both from Cradley in Herefordshire – plus Anthony Clarke, from Malvern, and Aleksandrs Savcuks, of no fixed address, as Ward's drug runners.
All five men went on to admit a charge of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.
Ward was jailed nine years.
Tipping, 61, was given a 42-month prison term, while Kettle, 55, and Clarke, 53, were jailed for three years. Savcuks was ordered to spend 40 months in a young offender institution.
The five men are the latest convictions under Operation Ballet – a regional offensive against County Lines drugs gangs – and sees the combined prison sentences handed down to offenders topping 100 years.
Detective Inspector Julie Woods, from the West Midlands ROCU leading Operation Ballet, said: "This is the fifth County Line conviction under Operation Ballet with offenders handed a combined total of 103 years and four months behind bars.
"There are five more yet to come to court so I’m expecting the total jail time given to offenders will top 200 years.
“It shows how seriously the police and courts view County Lines operations. These networks often exploit vulnerable people or children to do the dirty work, the street dealing, on behalf of drug bosses.
"Ward would have brought untold misery to a lot of people in Ledbury, Malvern and the surrounding regions and fuelled associated crime.”
Operation Ballet is the largest operation of its kind carried out in the region and last June saw West Midlands Police team up with West Mercia and Warwickshire forces to carry out a series of raids across the region and London. In total, Operation Ballet has netted 75 suspected drug dealers believed to be involved in a total of 10 County Lines operating out of the West Midlands and the capital.
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