Jail for brutal gang leader who ran £10m drugs empire

JAILED James Vaughan
JAILED James Vaughan
Picture: Wiki Commons (labelled for reuse)

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AN EVIL drug lord known as ‘Scarface’ who brought misery to Portsmouth’s streets has been locked up for 16 years.

Brutal James Vaughan led a gang of cocaine dealers and used violent methods to enforce his drug debts.

The gang leader – who revelled in his tough nickname but in fact was scarred in a childhood car accident – had been charged with manslaughter after a fire at a block of flats in Milton Road, Portsmouth, which claimed the life of innocent Kevin Holmes.

While charges relating to the blaze were dropped halfway through a trial, the death of Mr Holmes led police to uncover Vaughan’s multi-million pound cocaine empire.

Eight other men who worked for the 31-year-old in various roles were jailed alongside him at Winchester Crown Court after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine. They got 40 years between them.

Vaughan was described as a dangerous man who ruled by fear and intimidation. His involvement with cocaine began as a runner for his brother, Gary Vaughan who was a small-time dealer.

But the younger brother’s ambition quickly outstripped his sibling’s and he was soon running the show.

Violence and threats were a hallmark of his operation which made at least £10.8m over four years.

Judge Nicola Davies said: ‘James Vaughan used a progression of debt enforcement methods. Firstly in the form of text messages, followed by a visit from one of the bigger lads. In the event that didn’t work there would be a “nasty event”.’

The court heard he broke the nose of one of his men, Andrew Burdfield, and threatened to throw acid in his face and burn his mother’s house down. Vaughan, a heavy steroids user, also threatened to rape the sister of one of his men.

While he could be volatile and unpredictable his organisation was sophisticated.

In 2006 he created Anderson Cosmetics, a cover for importing large amounts of chemicals used for cutting cocaine, from China.

The cocaine was coming in from Alicante in Spain and Vaughan set up another company, Anderson Buildings, as a cover for his income.

By mid-2007 Vaughan’s business was at its peak. Analysis of his computer showed he was searching Google for industrial blenders, so he could cut the cocaine on an even bigger scale.

In 2007 Freddie Fields, 26, was selling cocaine in Portsmouth for Vaughan and owed him £30,000. On September 17 Fields returned to the flat he shared with his girlfriend in Milton Road, after collecting a kilo of cocaine.

The judge said: ‘In the early hours of that morning the block of flats in Milton Road was deliberately set alight.

‘One of the consequences of the fire was that the drug organisation was brought to the attention of the police.’

Police found £3,000 worth of cocaine in Fields’ flat and their investigations eventually led them to Vaughan.

The prosecution initially claimed Vaughan had started the fire to scare Fields into paying his debt.

His home was raided in 2008 but he had fled to Thailand. He returned months later and continued running the drug ring.

Vaughan, of no fixed address but formerly of Harrington Road, Brighton, was arrested on February 4, 2010, after police, who were listening into his conversations, heard him threaten to stab someone who owed him money. In the end his brutal treatment of those below him led to his downfall, with four of his ring turning against him and providing the police with vital information.

The judge told Vaughan: ‘It’s clear that you were regarded by those who worked for you as a senior and central figure in this drug ring. You controlled by fear and intimidation. You preyed upon those who you knew were addicted to drugs.’

Detective Chief Inspector Dave Powell, who led the investigation, said: ‘James Vaughan is an exceptionally dangerous man and his sentence reflects that.’