Drugs gang jailed for nearly 40 years after police raids at stash houses

DEALERS involved in the peddling of near-import quality heroin and crack cocaine have been jailed for nearly 40 years combined.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard how a six-strong gang sold drugs ‘dealer to dealer’ and to addicts on the streets of Portsmouth.

James Warren Hallett

James Warren Hallett

But their six-month operation came crashing around them when stash houses were traced by police carrying out surveillance.

Raids at the homes in Harbour Towers in Gosport, and Meon Mews in Cosham, uncovered thousands of pounds worth of the class A drugs.

Officers found half a kilo of heroin and 450 grams of ‘premium quality, uncut’ cocaine, worth a combined £150,000, at Meon Mews, along with the cutting agent benzocaine and £4,000 cash. A 163g cocaine block was found to be at 85 per cent purity, police said.

Sentencing, Judge David Melville QC said James Hallett, 29, was at the ‘absolute centre’ of the gang, with ‘ruthless’ and ‘determined criminal’ Lee Sheehan acting as the ‘muscle’.

Lee Sheehan

Lee Sheehan

Courier and front man Charlie Jeacock, 22, received £5,000 into his account over the course of the operation, the judge said.

Police said Jeacock was arrested with heroin worth £1,100, cocaine worth £180, and £1,170 in cash.

Judge Melville jailed Hallett, who was at Meon Mews when it was raided, for 14 years, Sheehan for 10 and Jeacock, who lost a bid to convince the judge he was intimidated into working for the gang, for seven.

Convicted robber Sheehan, an apprentice tree surgeon, had claimed at a trial he was staking out the drug network in a bid to steal the drugs and cash and would ‘kidnap and torture’ dealers if needed.

Charlie Stephen Jeacock

Charlie Stephen Jeacock

A jury rejected the 48-year-old’s ‘fanciful’ defence to the charges and convicted him, the judge said.

Addressing the defendants, the judge said: ‘From about the end of October 2015 until police raids brought it to an end on April 1, 2016, a number of you were involved in an enterprise to supply class A drugs including cocaine and heroin in the Portsmouth area.

‘In the early part of 2016 the defendants were observed by the police to carry and hand over drugs in a number of different places.

‘There was a deal line to end purchasers.’

Billy Ross Fitzearle

Billy Ross Fitzearle

But he added: ‘It’s plain from the size of the operation it wasn’t just to street purchasers or end users that these drugs were supplied.

‘It was a very substantial operation, a large amount of drugs were sold and in my judgment it was essentially a wholesale operation.’

Driver Billy Fitzearle, 35, who chauffeured cocaine addict Jeacock across Portsmouth and Hampshire, was jailed for four years and six months.

The judge ruled the tree surgeon got involved after his mother was threatened when he fell into a crack cocaine debt with dealers.

Window cleaner James Whistler, 27, who helped wrap the heroin, was jailed for four years. It was ruled he was only involved for up to two weeks before the raids.

A sixth man, Adam Foster, 35, failed to turn up to court and a warrant is out for his arrest.

James John Whistler

James John Whistler

Police watching the group spotted addicts approaching Jeacock and Fitzearle buying drugs.

Addicts had been calling the deal line phone hundreds of times – with one calling 164 times in three weeks, and another 206 times in 31 days.

Police had stopped both Jeacock and Sheehan in Portchester and arrested them. Foster handed himself in. Hallett was found in Meon Mews.

Investigating officer DC Mark Brockman said: ‘I welcome these sentences which send a clear message that drug dealing and the associated violence and harm to vulnerable people this causes, will not be tolerated.’

He added: ‘This was a complex investigation, but our enquiries revealed that this gang was based in Gosport and also had a house that they used in Cosham. They were dealing cocaine and heroin across south east Hampshire.’

The defendants

ALL defendants were sentenced for two charges of being concerned in the supply of class A drugs, heroin and cocaine - apart from Whistler who was acquitted of the cocaine offence.

Fitzearle and Jeacock admitted the charges but the remainder were convicted by a jury at trial.

Hallett was also found guilty of two charges of possessing class A drugs with intent to supply.

n Dad-of-one James Hallett, 29, of Ferrol Road, Gosport, jailed for 14 years

n Lee Sheehan, 48, of Horningtops, Cornwall, jailed for 10 years

n Charlie Jeacock, 22, of Grove Road, Rayleigh, jailed for seven years.

n Dad-of-one Billy Fitzearle, 35, of Southampton Road, Titchfield, jailed for four years and six months.

n James Whistler, 27, of The Chine, Gosport, jailed for four years.

n A warrant is out for the arrest of Adam Foster, 35, of Brow Hey, Bamber Bridge, Preston