A Brighton man has found guilty of being involved in a £12.5 million conspiracy to supply heroin from Liverpool to East Sussex, police have said.
Following a seven-week retrial at Hove Crown Court, a jury on Thursday (March 9) found Lea Elton Smith guilty of conspiracy to supply heroin in Brighton and Eastbourne.
The court heard how detectives from the Organised Crime Investigation Team in Brighton led a series of drugs raids on March 24 last year, resulting in 19 arrests and the seizure of £50,000 cash. Search warrants were carried out at nine addresses in Brighton, one in Eastbourne and one in Liverpool.
During these searches, which involved more than 100 police officers and staff, six kilos of heroin mixed with cutting agent were found and seized, with an estimated street value of £600,000.
Search warrants were carried out at nine addresses in Brighton, one in Eastbourne and one in Liverpool.
During the searches, which involved more than 100 police officers and staff, three safes were also found.
Following the raids, 13 people were charged will drug-related offences.
Police said during the investigation, the ‘mastermind’ behind the operation, 49-year-old Thomas Wynn from Liverpool, failed to answer police bail. His body was later found in Dubai.
Of the remaining suspects seven previously admitted their guilt, and at the start of this trial Jon Paul Swann, the son-in-law of Thomas Wynn, also pleaded guilty to his role within the conspiracy.
The court heard that over the period of the indictment, couriers working for the gang made over 50 trips between Liverpool and Sussex, bringing multiple kilos of drugs south for onward supply.
Detective Inspector Julie Wakeford said: “This case resulted from a long-term covert investigation into an organised crime network, supplying heroin from Liverpool onto the streets of Brighton, Hove and Eastbourne. This investigation is part of our continuing work aimed at disrupting the supply of drugs into Brighton.”
Sussex Police revealed the results of the other trials involved in the case:
- Lea Smith, 46, of Natal Road, Brighton, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply heroin.
- Ronald Edwards, 50, of Chiddingly Close, Brighton and Sean Davidson, 49, of Downhill View, Brighton were found not guilty of conspiracy to supply heroin.
- The jury was unable to reach a verdict in respect of Louis Makai, 45, of Langridge Drive, Portslade.
- Jon-Paul Swann, 33, of Colin Drive, Liverpool, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin at the start of the re-trial on January 16.
- Ian Gerald Frost, 48, of St Michael’s Place, Brighton, was found not guilty of conspiracy to supply heroin but admitted charges of dangerous driving and possession of cannabis from August 21, 2014.
- Kingsley Walls, 44, who also had previously pleaded guilty to his role within the organisation, died of natural causes on the December 23, 2016, prior to being sentenced.
- Lee Mack, 50, of Sheepcote Valley Caravan Park, Brighton, Andrew Antoniou, 58, of Dorset Mews, Brighton, Neil Ballad, 48, of Hangleton Road, Hove, Paul Shannon, 60, of North Street, Eastbourne and Arthur Jones, 55, Downs Avenue, Eastbourne had all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin.
- Julie Coltherd, 43, of Langley Crescent, Brighton pleaded guilty to money laundering.
His Honour Judge Anthony Niblett told Smith: “You have been convicted on very clear evidence of conspiracy to supply heroin into this city. We are fortunate in this city that we have police officers of such diligence and professionalism that they can disrupt the enterprise that you are an integral part of. You were linked in the closest possible way to Tommy Wynn and you were controlling the enterprise in this city.”
The defendants convicted of involvement in the case will be sentenced at a later date.
Note: Sussex Police supplied an incorrect charge in respect of Julie Coltherd. This has now been corrected.