Eight men involved in a conspiracy to transport and sell drugs with an estimated street value of around £1 million have been jailed for more than 50 years.
Police were first alerted to the gang when residents in Sedbury raised concerns to Neighbourhood Policing Officers in 2020 about possible drug dealing taking place in the town.
A butcher’s shop in Sedbury, run by one of the men, was being used as a front for storing drugs being brought down to the country from the West Midlands.
Detectives with Gloucestershire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit were able to identify the two ringleaders and their trusted assistants and put the men under surveillance.
Together the eight men formed two organised crime groups involved in a complex supply chain that saw the drugs moved from the West Midlands to the Forest of Dean and Monmouth area.
Phone work by police analysts revealed the groups exchanged hundreds of calls and text messages, where they shared addresses for the co-ordinated delivery of cash and drugs.
Dozens of meetings at pubs, businesses, home addresses and storage units across the West Midlands and Gloucestershire took place between the dealers as they conspired to transport and cut the cocaine further.
The eight men were:
Brett Anslow, age 39 and of Four Winds Road, Dudley;
Richard Lawrence, age 34 and of Smithy Road, Llandogo;
Alan Ballinger, age 28 and of St John Street, Coleford;
Shane Tyrell, age 48 and of Milling Crescent, Lydney;
Michael Chand, age 55 and of Old Bridge Walk, Birmingham;
Jason Grindle, age 36 and of Market Place, Coleford;
Trevor Cook, age 48 and of Wheelright Close, Wednesbury;
Paul Johnson, age 35 and of Station Terrace, Cinderford.
The conspiracy ran from February 2020 through to September 2021.
The West Midlands group was headed by Anslow, with Cook and Chand working under him. The Forest of Dean contingent was headed up by Lawrence, with Johnson, Tyrell and Grindle assisting him.
Lawrence and Anslow played leading roles in their respective groups, directing operations and co-ordinating the supply of the drugs.
Grindle was involved in the financial arm of the Forest of Dean group, paying rent for a storage unit where drugs, cash and other items were held. Tyrell owned the butcher’s shop and garage where cocaine was discovered, along with equipment used to alter drugs.
Chand had been associated with Anslow since at least 2015, while Cook was a trusted courier.
Police executed warrants on 6 July 2021 at Tyrell’s home and the butcher’s shop. In total, more than 3.4kg of cocaine and 1kg of Benzocaine, used as a cutting agent, were recovered from his home address, along with 3kg of amphetamine found in a freezer at the butcher’s shop.
Further searches of their properties, including a rented garage, found multiple kilograms of amphetamine, large quantities of cash, digital scales and drugs press.
Both Lawrence and Tyrell were arrested but plans to continue their lucrative operations were already underway. Ballinger stepped in as head of the Forest of Dean group to replace Lawrence, who was using a secret mobile phone while in custody to communicate with his ‘mules’.
On 15 September 2021, further warrants were executed at the addresses of Anslow, Cook, Chand and Grindle. In all, 1.4kg of cocaine, cash totalling £49,235 and mobile phones were recovered.
The eight men had all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine at a previous hearing.
Lawrence and Tyrell also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply amphetamines, while Johnson pleaded guilty to possessing cannabis with the intent to supply.
Ballinger had been on bail for two separate counts of offering to supply cocaine, unrelated to the conspiracy, at the time of his arrest and these were taken into account in sentencing.
Sentencing the men, HH Judge Ian Lawrie KC told them: “Based on the evidence that I have read, the amount of money and drugs which were involved were just the tip of the iceberg in this conspiracy.”
He took into account the defendants’ mitigation, which included letters from the families and efforts to gain qualifications while on remand.
Lawrence and Anslow, who were the ringleaders of the conspiracy, were given jail terms of nine years each.
Ballinger was sentenced to 42 months in prison; Johnson and Tyrell were handed sentences of five years and seven months each; Chand, Grindle and Cook were given six years each in jail.
Detective Inspector Matt Phillips, from the Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: “These men thought they were untouchable by the police, but this investigation has shown that nobody is above the law.
“This sentence is a testament to the hard work and dedication of all the officers involved in this case, from the initial intelligence gained by our Neighbourhood Policing Team from the community, to the thorough and meticulous investigation by our detectives and analysts.
“It sends a strong message to anyone dealing drugs that Gloucestershire Constabulary takes this problem incredibly seriously and that we have the resources to tackle even the most organised of crime groups.
“If anybody is concerned about drug dealing in their community, or that their loved ones might be involved in drug dealing, they can contact the police and we will always follow up that information and do all we can to ensure justice is served.”
Christine Hart, Crown Advocate for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) South West, said: “This was a sophisticated drugs ring that involved two groups of dealers operating a large scale distribution network.
“Despite police arrests meaning their network was rapidly thinning, the two groups were determined to selfishly plough ahead with their profitable plans to pump dangerous drugs into the Gloucestershire area.
“Drug-related crime is corrosive – it damages not only those involved in buying and selling and their families, but the communities in which they live. The CPS is committed to working with the police to disrupt the supply of drugs by bringing those involved to justice and ensuring they do not profit from their criminality.”