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Weekly Edition - Publication date:- 2017-04-11

-en Southport & Mersey Reporter

Local News Report  - Mobile Page


Merseyside drug gang has been jailed following cannabis farm investigation

A Merseyside gang who used remote farmhouses in Wales and Staffordshire to grow cannabis worth ₤1.3 million have been jailed. The 12 strong organised crime group were sentenced during 2 days of Court hearings, at Liverpool Crown Court.

Led by Gary Long and Peter Snape from Fazakerly in Liverpool, the gang grew cannabis plants of such quality and in such professional conditions that a Police drug expert described the 86kg yield as the most valuable he had ever seen.

When Police raided the homes of some of the defendants after uncovering the farms they found evidence of a lifestyle bought with drug money. Expensive cars, watches and designer clothing were found along with ₤30,000 in cash.

Detectives from Titan, the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, worked with local forces to investigate the gang, which set up its 1st cannabis farm at a rural property, within Aberdwr, South Wales, in 2013. The farm was dismantled by Police and co-accused Mark Roberts from Penegoes, Machynlleth were arrested, but not charged.

Roberts came to the Police's attention again when a cannabis farm was spotted near Machynlleth; his home Town; and links to Merseyside cannabis criminals were established.

Titan Officers identified a 3rd, much larger farm house being used to grow cannabis, this time in Essington in Staffordshire. The farmhouse had been rented in a false name since 2013 and the Police investigation established a pattern of behaviour where the Merseyside men, working for Long and Snape, would travel to the cannabis farms to tend to their crops, often doing a 6 hour round trip just to spend a short period of time inside.

The gang were caught when they hurriedly cleared out dozens of plants from a property that was due to be inspected by the local authority landlord, leaving evidence behind.

In a serious of coordinated raids by Titan and Officers from:- Merseyside, Cheshire, Staffordshire and Dyfed Powys Police Forces, 13 people were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cultivate cannabis and money laundering.

Long, aged 30 and Snape, aged 29, who ran the operation through a series of clandestine meetings within gyms and cafes, in Liverpool, pleaded guilty and were each jailed for 5 years and 5 months.

Paul Ward, aged 36 from Walton, who used his electrician skills to repair the illegally diverted electricity supply in one of the cannabis farms in Wales, was jailed for 14 months.

The other men sentenced were:-

►  James Anthony Rimmer, 06/09/1966, from Fazakerley - 3 years, 10 months.

►  Warren Rimmer, 21/03/1992, from Kirkby - 3 years, 8 months.

►  Michael Hardwick, 03/03/1989, from Kirkby - 3 years, 4 months.

►  Joseph O'Brien, 25/01/1990, from Fazakerley - 3 years, 4 months.

►  James Thomas Marsh, 11/11/1988, from Fazakerley - 3 years, 2 months.

►  Gavin Michael Laffey, 24/04/1978, from Anfield - 3 years.

►  James Foy, 04/07/1994, from Fazakerley - 2 years, 11 months.

►  Mark John Roberts, 21/01/1966, from Machynlleth - 2 years, 4 months.

►  Ian Heyes, 19/05/1987, from Kirkby - 2 years, 4 months.

Speaking after the court case, senior investigating officer, Det Insp Nick Hughes from Titan said:- "These substantial jail sentences should serve as a warning to people about the consequences of becoming involved in organised crime. The cannabis this gang were growing was lining their pockets, enabling them to live comfortable lifestyles whilst flooding their communities with drugs. It was a sophisticated set up capable of producing far more crops in a year than most other cannabis farms we've ever seen. They thought they could avoid detection by setting up in isolated buildings in rural areas, but our work with local forces shows that they is no place for organised crime groups to hide. Criminals involved in the cultivation of cannabis are often involved in other serious organised crime which brings significant harm to the very communities they are from. Every plant the Police seize represents money being taken from the pockets of criminals and I'd encourage the public to keep telling us where these farms are so we can take action."


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