GANGSTERS who forced teenage boys and girls as young as 14 to run drugs in Portsmouth have been convicted of slavery offences.
Violent Dean Alford, Michael Karemera and Glodi Wabelua, forced the six teenagers - three girls, two boys and a man - to travel from south London to restock dealers in Portsmouth.
The county lines trio ran drug phone lines advertising heroin and crack cocaine to addicts in Portsmouth - making up to £2,000 a day by sending out text messages to known users every day. Addicts were calling the trio between 200-300 a day. One 19-year-old who tried to escape the drug gang was stripped naked by associates linked to Karemera and had a gun put in his mouth.
The victims were three girls, aged 14, 15, and 16; two boys, aged 15 and 16, and the 19-year-old man, all from south London.
It comes as Hampshire police admit county lines gangs are operating in nearly every town in the county.
Five of the teenage victims were arrested in spring 2014 by Hampshire police and the force liaised with the Metropolitan Police Service to find out why they were in the city.
The teenagers would go out and sell the drugs, then deposit the cash with the gang.
Scotland Yard said three of the teenagers were separately convicted of possession with intent to supply class A drugs, while the 19-year-old was convicted of robbery.
Now Wabelua, 25, of Tottenham, has been found guilty of one charge of trafficking at Inner Crown Court on Wednesday. Alford, 25, of Canterbury, and Karemera, 25, of Lewisham both stood trial charged with three counts of trafficking.
Alford pleaded guilty at the close of the prosecution’s case, and Karemera pleaded guilty part-way through cross examination.
A Met police statement said: ‘The victims were recruited, groomed and trafficked by the defendants’ organised crime group.
‘They were directed to travel to Portsmouth on many occasions to restock drugs, putting their physical wellbeing at great risk.
‘Alford, Karemera and Wabelua controlled the victims, harbouring them within drug users’ homes in Portsmouth, and controlling their travel and freedom of movement.
‘The victims received instructions via mobile phone, telling them where to sell or drop off drugs.’
Senior investigating officer Acting Detective Inspector Simon French said: ‘The complex nature of this investigation and the determination of our officers to pursue human trafficking charges demonstrates how seriously we take the issue of county lines.’
He said a jury trying the case in 2018 was discharged at Woolwich Crown Court and a subsequent Court of Appeal ruling ordered a new trial - giving greater clarity on trafficking cases.
Initially the trio were convicted of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs crack cocaine and heroin in February 2016 at Woolwich Crown Court.
Alford received an eleven year sentence, to run consecutively with a three year sentence for perverting the course of justice. Karemera was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. Wabelua received a sentence of six years and eight months after an early guilty plea.
Alford ran the Duffy phone line, Karemera ran the Mitch line and Wabelua ran the Fly line.
Specialist prosecutor Kate Mulholland, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: ‘This case represents one of the few times that drug dealers have been prosecuted for arranging the travel and exploitation of teenage couriers.
‘The thorough prosecution case included covert policing techniques and use of mobile phone data. We were also able to prosecute this landmark case without the need for the children, who were victims of crime, to give evidence.
‘Where drug dealers use children to carry drugs the CPS will prosecute them for the further offence of trafficking.’