Five sentenced for role in county line that 'persistently' supplied Class A drugs on 'commercial scale'
Five men from the West Midlands have been sentenced for their part in a £500,000 Class A drug conspiracy that lasted eight-and-a-half months and involved cocaine and heroin being trafficked into Cheltenham, Stroud and Cirencester.
Three of the men were jailed for a total of 24 years and nine months at Gloucester Crown Court while two others received a two year community order for the conspiracy that ran between September 1, 2020 and May 13, 2021.
The court was told by PC Thomas Llewellyn, the force’s drugs expert, that he estimated the value and quantity of drugs supplied was approximately five kilos valued at half-a-million pounds.
Prosecutor Neil Treharne said that Mohammed Chohan, 36 and Usman Chohan, 39, both of Westminster Road, Handsworth, Birmingham, were the main operators of the 'Charlie' County drug line which "actively and persistently" supplied class A drugs to users and small time dealers in Cheltenham, Stroud and Cirencester.
Mr Treharne said the Chohan brothers operated their drug supply and distribution on a commercial scale and were using various runners and drivers to deliver hard drugs on a daily basis.
The prosecutor said police mounted Operation Bocelli to catch the gang, using automatic number plate recognition cameras and mobile phone cell data to establish who was involved.
“Haleem Ali, 23, of Naseby Road, Birmingham and Hashim Ali, 26, of Ansell Road, Birmingham were drivers and worked with a number of others, who handled the drugs and the money on the streets, and have already been sentenced for their part in the Charlie drugs line,” said the prosecutor.
“The drivers and their runners were told what to do, and where to go by Ahssan Arshad, 20, of Ryland Road, Erdington, who sent them postcodes to deliver the drugs to in Gloucestershire. They had to return the cash to the Chohans in Westminster Road, Handsworth, Birmingham on a daily basis.”
The court heard that the Charlie drugs line changed its number on three occasions and sent out multiple bulk text messages to users and localised dealers in Gloucestershire on a regular basis.
Police gained information from a known drug user in the county who had saved the numbers as Charlie, Charlie2 and Charlie3 on their phone.
The court was told that on April 15, 2021 police stop Hashim Ali in his car because the vehicle had become known to them as being suspected for use in drug dealing. Ali had a woman as a passenger operating as his runner. They were found with heroin and crack cocaine, valued at £4,500 in street deals. This was approximately the amount of drugs sent to Gloucestershire on a daily basis.
Mr Treharne said that the drugs supply operation ended on May 13, 2021 when Gloucestershire Police executed warrants at the home addresses in the West Midlands of all the defendants, during which the Charlie 3 drugs phone was seized. It showed that bulk messages had been sent to 199 customers in the two days prior, offering to sell class A drugs in Gloucestershire.
Stephen Cooke representing Usman Chohan, said his client had been in custody since his arrest and this has given him a long time to reflect on his offending. He had made constructive use of his time in prison and even received a personal letter from the governor for his work with new prisoners.
Grahame Jones defending Mohammed Chohan, said: “The only mitigation I can put forward is his guilty plea. He has a number of previous convictions that were committed when he was still a youth. After his release from a young offenders’ institution he got back into his cocaine habit, built up a debt and was forced into dealing and now he is back in prison.”
Alex Matthews for Arshad said that he was the youngest of the five defendants and added: “This is first experience of prison. He admits his offending and is remorseful about getting involved. He accepts he will receive a lengthy custodial sentence.”
Justin Johnson for Haleem Ali said: “He has been on bail with a curfew for a very long time. He recognises that he needs to change his lifestyle. He states he was in a dark place at the time and turned to drugs. This is not an excuse, but places his offending in context. I don’t have an explanation as to why he pleaded guilty on the second day of his trial. He didn’t benefit financially, aside from funding his own drug habit.”
Sean Summerfield for Hashim Ali said: “He has also been on a tagged curfew and there has not been a hint of a breach of this. Therefore I am recommending that he would be suitable for a community order. He drove one of the women who has already been sentenced, for just 11 days. He did so because he was homeless and was sofa surfing at one of his co-defendant’s homes.
Judge Ian Lawrie KC told the defendants: “You Usman Chohan and Mohammed Chohan featured at the top of the supply chain and were clearly the master puppeteers, Chateau generals if you like, of others lower down the supply chain.
“Whilst there are slight differences in duration of involvement, it is clear from both your previous convictions and this evidence you worked as a closely knit team. You both clearly had a leading role.
“Next and pivotal in the supply chain of command was Ahssan Arshad. In the chain of command of the drug supply process, your role was as a busy Sergeant Major helping organise and run the ‘other ranks’ of numerous errand boys /girls or runners such as the Ali’s.
“Haleem Ali and Hashim Ali both fell during the home furlong of the trial process and were closely linked and connected with the other.
“It is clear to me on all the evidence, especially the phone records, whatever your precise role and whatever the duration your involvement you were all familiar with the scale of the supply process and were aware of your fellow participants in the supply chain and accordingly had an awareness and understanding of the scale and purpose of the supply operation.
“All five of you, whether by dint of conspiracy or being concerned, were collectively and knowingly involved in a concerted effort to supply Class A drugs on a commercial scale. I have little doubt it was an effort prompted and driven by a desire to make a great deal of easy money quickly.
“The nature and gravity of your offences means I have no option but to impose significant terms of imprisonment for three of you, but of varying duration to reflect your differing roles and duration of participation in this conspiracy.”
The Chohans were sentenced to prison terms of nine years each, Arshad to a custodial sentence of six years and nine months, while the Ali’s received a two year community order which includes attending 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days and undertaking 200 hours of unpaid work.
Proceeds of Crime proceedings against the five defendants and three others, who have already been sentenced, will follow and this will be considered in June next year on a date to be fixed.