Walsall FC player turned county lines drug dealer jailed for 10 years
A former Walsall FC player who ran a county lines drug operation using teenagers to deliver heroin and crack cocaine has been jailed for more than 10 years.
Shylo Thomas, who was at Walsall as a youngster and more recently played for Tamworth, was described in court as an "aggressive and intimidating" man who ensured those working for him had been cut off from their families.
Thomas, 28, ran a network of street dealers in Rugeley and Burton upon Trent, detailing their income, rent payments and shift patterns in a handwritten ledger discovered by detectives.
He was locked up for 10 years and seven months today alongside six other men and a 17-year-old boy from the Birmingham area, who all pleaded guilty to being involved in the drugs ring.
A total of 1.5kg of class-A drugs was moved in seven months between August 2017 and February 2018, Stafford Crown Court heard.
The court was told that Thomas and Malachi Mitchell used two mobile phones – which sent out up to 80 texts per day – to run their operation, referring to themselves as 'Turbo'.
Drug users would place an order with one of the lines and Thomas and Mitchell would then direct them to meet their street dealers, most of whom were vulnerable and were as young as 15.
The dealers were transported from Birmingham to Burton and Rugeley, where they were given accommodation in the common county lines practice of cuckooing - taking over the homes of drug users or staying in empty buildings as squatters.
Thomas - who was jailed for six years in 2013 for his part in an armed burglary - was arrested in February 2018 after detectives from Staffordshire Police gathered evidence from CCTV, mobile phones, forensic examinations and automatic number plate recognition.
He was found in possession of one of the 'Turbo' phones and a further phone belonging to a 15-year-old girl that he was exploiting as a street dealer.
Thomas was among seven people from the Birmingham area who admitted conspiracy to supply heroin and cocaine:
- Shylo Thomas, 28, of Hutton Road, Handsworth, was jailed for 10 years and seven months
- Malachi Mitchell, 26, of Leasow Drive, in Edgbaston, was jailed for three years and seven months.
- Callum Murphy, 19, of Arthur Street, Small Heath, was jailed for 22 months. He had already served this on remand and received a 12-month community order and two-month curfew.
- Troy Farquharson, 24, of Francis Road, Yardley, was jailed for three years after also pleading guilty to a burglary
- Kieron Smith, 19, of Tame Avenue, Castle Bromwich, was given a two-year prison sentence suspended for 18 months, a community order, four-month curfew and 150 hours’ unpaid work
- Rayees Ali, 18, of Marsh Lane, Erdington, was sentenced to 12-month community order, four-month curfew and 120 hours’ unpaid work
- A 17-year-old boy from Birmingham, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced to a 12-month community order, four-month curfew and 60 hours’ unpaid work.
- Atiyyah Gidden, 20, of Grosvenor Road, Aston, will be sentenced in December.
Judge Jonathan Salmon said: "This was a difficult case and considerable time and expertise was demonstrated by the officers who investigated.
“It is a tragedy to see such exploitation of the young.”
Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Sergeant Jim Byrne said: "We are glad this conspiracy, which was highly organised, has been brought to an end and this group are now serving their sentences.
“We will not tolerate drug-dealing in Staffordshire and, following on from a number of successful convictions across the county, we will continue to bring offenders before the courts.”
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