A PROFESSIONAL dealer who ran a drugs ring worth ‘hundreds of thousands’ of pounds has been jailed with his accomplices for a combined total of more than 37 years.
Anthony Busutill trafficked cocaine and heroin from Manchester to Portsmouth and Havant before his gang sent out hundreds of ‘advertising’ messages to addicts.
Now the 27-year-old, his 82-year-old father Charles Busutill, his lieutenants Chey O’Brien and Ryan Zwakenberg, and ‘highly trusted’ Joseph Whittaker, have all been jailed.
Busutill’s younger brother Luke, and David Smith, were spared jail terms at Portsmouth Crown Court.
Sentencing the seven, judge Ian Pearson said: ‘All the defendants before me have either pleaded guilty or admitted being part of this criminal enterprise, in order to bring drugs from the Manchester area to the Portsmouth area for onward sale to users in the Portsmouth area.
‘It’s fair to say that Portsmouth has a significant drug problem, particularly with heroin and cocaine.
‘The defendants here all played a part in the transmission of the drugs, if not the drugs themselves then associated with the criminal enterprise.
‘It’s a large-scale endeavour, there was a number of advertising texts sent out, to a great number of drug users over a period of some months.
‘It’s therefore not a short-lived enterprise but relatively long, the profits were going to be substantial.’
He added the operation was estimated to ‘run into several hundreds of thousands of pounds’.
The court heard how ‘directing mind’ Anthony Busutil led the gang which involved up to 610g of cocaine and 610g of heroin.
In 2015 he was caught with drugs paraphernalia on him when he was arrested off the A34 at Sutton Scotney in his leased Audi TT on June 20.
His brother and father were arrested at their home in Manchester in March 2016, where cash was found.
O’Brien was arrested in October 2015 after throwing a 3g wrap of heroin out a BMW on the way to Manchester when police tried to pull him over.
Smith was arrested at Southampton Airport Parkway with £14,800 cash.
Prosecutor Tom Hoarder revealed how Busutill ran the group from prison through phone calls to his father, arranging for tens of thousands of pounds of drugs or cash to be moved.
The gang operated between April 5, 2015 and October 22, 2015.
O’Brien, 27, known as Long Boy, became ‘managing director’ of the gang in Portsmouth when Busutill, known as Buzz, was in prison.
Calls revealed he said: ‘I’m probably the loyalest one to him, I’m the one who has been running it for him.’
Mr Hoarder told how the gang used a single phone number to send out advertising messages to addicts saying ‘awake now’ and other messages to sell the drugs.
He said: ‘Subsequent investigation show 395 unique telephone numbers that had been traced to 125 people known to Hampshire Constabulary to have some involvement in class A.’
He added: ‘They were sent out after trips made from Manchester to Portsmouth and often not long after their arrival in Portsmouth.
‘In the period we’re dealing with there’s a total of 61 advertising messages send out. The number of responses varied from 20 to 210.’
The gang swapped the SIM card around a large number of phones but that was never seized.
Anthony Busutill, of Grange Park Road, Manchester, was jailed for 11 years. Zwakenberg, 27, of Ashurst Road, Wymering, was jailed for six years. Both admitted two charges of conspiracy to supply of class A drugs.
Zwakenberg turned up late to court so admitted failing to surrender, and breaching two community orders. He received an extra three months.
O’Brien, 27, of Crasswell Street, Landport, was jailed for 10 years, while former Argos worker Whittaker, 27, Aspell Close, Middleton, Manchester, was jailed for seven years.
Both were convicted of two charges of conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
Former merchant sailor Charles Busutill, 82, of Grange Park Road, Manchester, admitted two charges of being concerned in supply of class A drugs and was jailed for three years.
He had a previous suspended sentence for money laundering.
Army veteran David Smith, 54, of Keeley Close, Manchester, admitted possession of criminal property, and received a one-year term suspended for two years. He has no previous.
Apprentice hotel chef Luke Busutill, 20, of Grange Park Road, Manchester, admitted being concerned in an arrangement to facilitation of criminal property.
He spoke to his brother in jail about money but did not allow it to be put in his account. He received six months’ jail suspended for two years.
In mitigation the court heard Luke Busutill did not handle cash, unemployed telesales worker Smith was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder from active service, unwell pensioner Busutill was a ‘conduit of intelligence’ and Zwakenberg had been ‘attracted by the money’.
Whittaker was a cannabis addict, O’Brien was a hard-working dad-of-one and Busutill regrets ‘manipulating’ his father, the court heard.
PC Brett Woolley said: ‘This was a lengthy and complex case, and we are pleased that these seven men have now been brought to justice.’