East Sussex crime gang ordered to pay more than £100,000 illegal profits

Five members of a drugs ring who were distributing heroin and cocaine across, East Sussex, South East London and Kent, have been stripped of more than £100,000 of its illegal profits, Sussex Police has confirmed.

They include two ringleaders, one from Hastings, who are currently serving life prison sentences for conspiracy to murder, police said.

Leo Ellis, 25, of Mountbatten Close, Hastings, and his associate Jason Caswell, 42, of Credon Walk, London, acted as main drug dealers supplying cocaine – and in Ellis’s case heroin too – across East Sussex and Kent.

Police said they ran a drugs ring supplying the area with illegal substances from their suppliers.

However, Sussex Police detectives identified this ring and the locations from where they ran their illegal operation. In a succession of major raids and arrests officers seized a large amount of drugs and cash over several months in 2015 and 2016.

A police spokesman said these were just some of the drugs seized during the police operation.

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Now five members of the ring, including Ellis and Caswell, have been served with court confiscation orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) in a series of hearings at Hove Crown Court which ended on Wednesday (April 17).

They are required to repay the money into court within ordered timescales or will have to serve further terms of imprisonment, and will still have to pay.

A Sussex Police spokesman said: “Leo Ellis was ordered to repay £10,542.64.

“Scott Gardner, 42, (of Bexhill Road, St Leonards) who had been sentenced to 12 months in February 2018 having pleaded guilty before the trial to money laundering, was ordered to repay £43,475.00.

“Wesley Long, 41, (of Harold Road, Hastings) who had been sentenced to three years having admitted before the trial conspiracy to supply cocaine, was ordered to repay £49,900.00.

“Jason Caswell was ordered to repay £15.

“Kevin Wise, 53, (of no fixed abode) who had been sentenced on 17 July 2018 to 18 years imprisonment for supplying cocaine and offering to supply MDMA was ordered to repay a nominal amount of £1.”

In separate confiscation proceedings earlier this year for a related matter the Metropolitan Police had secured a POCA order requiring Wise to repay £136,635.00 of which £66,600.00 is going as compensation to victims as his offending in that related case involved fraud against individuals, police confirmed.

This is in addition to the total of £3,287,521.62 in criminally acquired assets for which Sussex Police obtained court orders for recovery in the 12 months to the end of March 2019.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Richardson of the Sussex Police Economic Crime Unit said; “The court found that Ellis, Caswell and Wise, had benefited by amounts greater than those they are currently required to repay. However we keep records of all existing confiscation orders where the full benefit amount isn’t immediately available and regularly check on them to identify any additional assets which have been obtained since the original order was made.

“We then apply to the court for an increase in the original order. We will also sometimes request the assistance of the South East Regional Asset Confiscation Enforcement (ACE) team, part of the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) who will contact the offenders to help identify more assets.

“Meanwhile, even orders such as those just granted still send the important message that we will always go after criminal assets even beyond conviction, to try to return them lawful and useful purposes.

“Funds seized by the courts through POCA confiscation or cash forfeiture orders go to the central Government exchequer. However a proportion of this is returned to law enforcement. Similar amounts go the CPS and the court system.

“POCA-derived funding that return to this force is distributed equally between the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Chief Constable. Sussex Police receive 50% cash back from cash forfeitures and 18.75% cash back from confiscation orders such as these.

“We fund Financial Investigators and Financial Intelligence Officers from part of these amounts to help continue our valuable work in seizing criminal assets, with the remainder being used to support local community crime reduction and diversion projects.

“In some cases, like this, the amounts financially seized or forfeited are initially less than the amounts we estimate the criminals have benefited from. But there are systems in place to enable us still to pursue their profits.”

Under Project Fortress, Sussex Police is working to tackle drug supply and drug related harm in the community.