Nine men jailed after “industrial” drugs factory discovered in Sealand

Nine men have today been jailed to a total of more than 188 years for their part in producing and supplying millions of pounds worth of drugs on an industrial scale across the UK. A joint investigation between North Wales Police and Merseyside Police, which began in the Spring of 2020, uncovered a network involved in the distribution of controlled drugs across England, Wales and Scotland by an organised crime group (OCG). Two of the group were also part of conspiracies in relation to firearms offences.

The evidence was unearthed as part of an investigation into the ‘Encrochat’ messaging platform and linked members of the group to a premises called Wood Cottage on Deeside Lane, Sealand – identified as an industrial drugs laboratory used to produce amphetamine on a multi-million-pound commercial scale, which sparked an operation by North Wales Police codenamed ‘Operation Blue Sword’.  On occasions, the lab was also used to produce, or attempt to produce, other Class B drugs. The Leader: Images of various controlled drugs and cash sent between the Encro devices. Image: North Wales PoliceImages of various controlled drugs and cash sent between the Encro devices. Image: North Wales Police

As part of a parallel investigation, Merseyside Police also discovered a storage unit in the Aintree area had also been used by the group to store a large quantity of chemicals and equipment relating to amphetamine production. READ MORE: Jail for mum who tried to smuggle drugs into Wrexham prison Following today’s sentencing, Senior Investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Lee Boycott said: “This has been a protracted and lengthy investigation.

The geography involved and scale of the production enterprise was unprecedented for North Wales. “The criminal gang produced amphetamine on an industrial scale from the drugs factory in Sealand, which were distributed across various parts of the UK. The Leader: Images of various controlled drugs and cash, and the Sealand lab sent between the Encro devices. Images: North Wales PoliceImages of various controlled drugs and cash, and the Sealand lab sent between the Encro devices. Images: North Wales Police

“The evidence gathered as part of the investigation revealed that between April and June 2020, the quantities of controlled drugs produced to be eye watering. “The Sealand illicit lab converted 2.6 tonnes of raw chemicals into controlled drugs. In total over that three-month period, it is estimated that the gang produced over 900 litres of amphetamine oil and over 700 kgs of amphetamine – with an estimated wholesale value of around GBP1 million.

“They even discussed increasing that capacity. Such was the scale of the production enterprise; the raw materials were moved onsite with plant machinery and HGV’s involved in the logistics. “The enterprise produced amphetamine on a multi-million-pound commercial scale.

It is satisfying today to see the culmination of the investigation all nine offenders jailed for their crimes. The Leader: Police images of chemicals and amphetamine seized from the unit in Aintree./ppImages: North Wales PolicePolice images of chemicals and amphetamine seized from the unit in Aintree. Images: North Wales Police “We are committed to working along with other agencies and our partners in Merseyside Police, to show gangs who deal in drugs and attempt to corrupt our communities will be continually targeted.

“This result is not only testament to the hard work and dedication of Serious and Organised Crime teams involved, but also to the support we received from the public, who assist greatly in tackling this crime that has such a detrimental effect on people’s lives. “I would ask anyone who has any information about who is supplying or selling drugs in their area to contact us so we can take action. We will continue to strive to make North Wales the safest place to live in the UK.”

All nine offenders jailed at Liverpool Crown Court were: Anthony Saunderson
The Leader: Anthony Saunderson./ppImage: North Wales PoliceAnthony Saunderson. Image: North Wales Police The 42-year-old, of no fixed abode, but previously from the Formby area, used the Encrochat handles ‘Jessie-Pinkman’ and ‘James-Gandolfini’.

He was involved in the the production of amphetamine and its distribution on an industrial scale. He was also involved in the supply of Class A controlled drugs and evidence linked him to a conspiracy to sell or transfer firearms and ammunition. Saunderson was convicted of conspiracy to produce and supply Class A drugs (amphetamine), conspiracy to produce and supply Class B drugs (amphetamine), conspiracy to supply a Class A drugs (cocaine and heroin), conspiracy to supply other Class B drugs (cannabis, ketamine, MCAT and Diazepam) and conspiracy to sell or transfer prohibited weapons.

He was jailed for a total of 35 years (31 years for drug offences, in addition to a four-year consecutive sentence for the firearms offence). Paul Mount The Leader: Paul Mount. Image: North Wales PolicePaul Mount. Image: North Wales Police

The 38-year-old, of no fixed abode, but previously from the Halsall area, was linked to the Encrochat handle ‘Nova-Club’. In addition to amphetamine production, he was in discussions in relation to the supply of huge quantities of cocaine and heroin. He was also involved in the wholesale supply of cannabis and evidence showed that at some point during the conspiracy, he had access to a Glock handgun with associated ammunition.

He was convicted of conspiracy to produce and supply Class A drug (amphetamine), conspiracy to produce and supply a Class B drug (amphetamine), conspiracy to supply Class A drugs (cocaine and heroin), conspiracy to supply other Class B drugs (cannabis, ketamine, MCAT and Diazepam) and conspiracy to acquire or purchase a prohibited weapon. He was jailed for a total of 34 years (31 years for drug offences, in addition to a three-year consecutive sentence for the firearms offence). READ MORE: Jail for Mostyn man who held his mum underwater by her neck

Darren Owens The Leader: Darren Owens./ppImage: North Wales PoliceDarren Owens. Image: North Wales Police The 48-year-old, of Knowsley Lane, Huyton, used the Encrochat handles ‘Paperjaguar’ and ‘PierreWhite’.

He was involved in the large scale production and supply of amphetamine at Wood Cottage and was convicted of conspiracy to produce and supply a Class A drugs (amphetamine), conspiracy to produce and supply a Class B drug (amphetamine), conspiracy to supply other Class B drugs (cannabis, ketamine, MCAT and Diazepam) and conspiracy to produce other Class B drugs (ketamine and MCAT). He was jailed for a total of 24 years. Kieron Hartley

The Leader: Kieron Hartley. Image: North Wales PoliceKieron Hartley.

Image: North Wales Police The 32-year-old, of Moss Side, Liverpool, who used the Encrochat handle ‘Bigwaiter’ worked closely alongside Darren Owens and others producing drugs at the Sealand lab. Hartley was convicted of conspiracy to produce and supply Class A drugs (amphetamine), conspiracy to produce and supply a Class B drug (amphetamine), conspiracy to supply other Class B drugs (cannabis, ketamine, MCAT and Diazepam) and conspiracy to produce other Class B drugs (ketamine and MCAT).

He was jailed for a total of 23 years. Michael Pope The Leader: Michael Pope. Image: North Wales PoliceMichael Pope. Image: North Wales Police

The 35-year-old, of no fixed abode, but previously from the Maghull area, used the Encrochat handle ‘Strikingpuma’ and was involved in the wholesale supply of Class A drugs and the sourcing of supply and drugs on a commercial scale. Pope was convicted of conspiracy to supply Class B (amphetamine), conspiracy to supply Class A (cocaine and heroin) and conspiracy to supply other Class B drugs (cannabis, ketamine, MCAT and Diazepam). He was jailed for a total of 17 years and six months.

Stefon Beeby The Leader: Stefon Beeby./ppImage: North Wales PoliceStefon Beeby. Image: North Wales Police The 42-year-old, previously from the Halifax area, was involved in the production and supply of amphetamine from Wood Cottage. 

He was convicted of conspiracy to produce and supply a Class A drugs (amphetamine) and conspiracy to produce and supply a Class B drug (amphetamine). He was jailed for a total of 16 years and six months. David Kelly

The Leader: David Kelly. Image: North Wales PoliceDavid Kelly.

Image: North Wales Police The 44-year-old of no fixed abode, but formerly from Maghull, used the Encrochat handle ‘Atom-game’. He used a breakdown recovery truck to transport cash and drugs across the country.
He was convicted of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs (amphetamine), conspiracy to supply Class B drugs (amphetamine), conspiracy to supply Class A (cocaine and heroin) and conspiracy to supply other Class B drugs (cannabis, ketamine, MCAT and Diazepam.)

He was jailed for a total of 15 years and three months. Stephen Shearwood The Leader: Stephen Shearwood. Image: North Wales PoliceStephen Shearwood. Image: North Wales Police

The 38-year-old, of no fixed abode, but previously from the Maghull area, used the Encrochat handle ‘Octo-ice’ and was involved in the storage and movement of drugs, chemicals and cash. He was convicted of conspiracy to produce and supply Class B drugs (amphetamine), conspiracy to supply Class A drugs (cocaine and heroin) and conspiracy to supply other Class B drugs (cannabis, ketamine, MCAT and Diazepam). He was jailed for a total of 14 years and four months.

Lee Eccles The Leader: Lee Eccles./ppImage: North Wales PoliceLee Eccles. Image: North Wales Police The 33-year-old, of no fixed abode, but formerly of Maghull played a leading role in the production and supply of amphetamine.

Eccles was convicted of conspiracy to produce and supply Class B (amphetamine). He was jailed for a total of eight years and nine months. Make sure you don’t miss the top court stories of the week by signing up to our free court newsletter

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