Men involved in £70m cocaine operation at Hampshire warehouse are jailed
A TRIO of men who played significant roles in a highly-organised drug gang have been put behind bars.
In October 2019 police raided Clamp Farm Stables in Newtown in the Meon Valley and uncovered cocaine with a £6.4m street value along with a pistol, silencer and 50 rounds of ammunition.
The operation was worth £70m a year, with £1.5m of wholesale value cocaine sold by the gang each week.
Alongside subsequent arrests, it was the largest cocaine bust ever made in the county.
Today at Portsmouth Crown Court, three men appeared for sentencing having pleaded guilty to their roles in the operation.
Lee Matthews, 37 from Field Way in Denmead, was considered to be the warehouse manager, leasing a caravan to be used as a main workshop.
Robert Hey, 41 of Upper Arundel Street in Portsmouth, was the gang’s courier and used a van to distribute cocaine up and down the country.
Jason Stanley, 20 of Lovedean Lane in Cowplain, was Matthews’ assistant, helping with both the packaging and supply of the drugs.
All three were sentenced together by Judge Roger Hetherington, who said the case was ‘off the scale’ of usual sentencing guidelines.
The men were cleared of having the handgun, silencer or ammunition, but Matthews and Stanley also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply a class B drug, namely amphetamines.
Judge Hetherington said: ‘It’s accepted that each of you played a significant role – the scale of the cocaine conspiracy was so vast that the criminality was very great indeed.
‘This case relates to a conspiracy involving roughly 700kg of cocaine, and the sentences will reflect that.
‘Each of you was not involved for the entirety of the operation, but you were involved for a considerable period of time.
‘Things will have moved on considerably by the time you are released from prison.’
Police carried out months of surveillance, following couriers and gang members, before the raid took place.
Hey’s van used to transport the cocaine up and down the country, a Mercedes Vito, had been seized in January 2019 after he parked it on double yellow lines in Portsmouth.
Judge Hetherington added that all three men had varying mitigating factors in their cases.
Adan Gersch, representing Matthews, said the defendant rarely visited the Clamp Farm site, indicating a lesser involvement than what he had been accused of.
The court also heard that Hey got involved to clear his debts, and had been reliant on cocaine since his teenage years – while Stanley was a boy ‘operating in a man's world’ having been sucked into the gang.
Matthews was sentenced to 15 years and three months in prison, with a concurrent eight years for the supply of amphetamines.
Stanley was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison, with a concurrent five years for the supply of amphetamines.
Hey was also sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.
All three will be made to wear electronic tags, and the seized drugs will be destroyed.
Police pleased by ‘lengthy’ prison sentences
With this being the largest seizure of all time for Hampshire Constabulary, prosecutors and officers are satisfied that this result will deter other criminals from such activity.
Detective Constable Edward Wiggins said: ‘This investigation, led by Hampshire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit has identified just one of the tiers of a large scale organised crime group.
‘These people were likely to have been promised lavish lifestyles and financial security for their families – they now face lengthy prison sentences, taking them away from their families.
‘Hampshire Constabulary will continue to investigate and take action against criminals.’
Andrew Gubbels from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) added: ‘We worked with Hampshire Constabulary to ensure we had all the evidence we needed to prosecute these people and present a compelling case based on an extensive examination of mobile phone data and messages.
‘This included evidence from encrypted mobile phones and DNA evidence linking Stanley and Matthews to the storage and ‘cutting’ of drugs. We also had evidence demonstrating that Hey was instrumental in arranging the installation of hides and the couriering of drugs all over the UK, not just within the Hampshire region.
‘The weight of this evidence meant that they had no choice but to plead guilty.
‘We are pleased to have disrupted the supply of an enormous amount of drugs which would have otherwise found its way in to our community.’