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A Burntwood man has been jailed after heading a gang who tried to smuggle 30kg of cannabis into the UK.
The drugs – with a street value of £125,000 – had been packed in a crate from Germany labelled as containing wheels when it was intercepted by police in 2015.
It was found to have 30 1kg parcels of cannabis vegetation.
A police investigation found that Christopher Burns, of Hill Street in Burntwood, had used the alias Steven Dixon between July and November 2014 to contact a logistics company and arrange shipments of freight from Barcelona and the Netherlands to the UK.
The 41-year-old also fraudulently used the name of a genuine business, with other members of the gang travelling to Europe in a van to collect the packages. But the freight company had discovered the business had not ordered freight and cancelled Burns’ order.
He then used the alias Steven Wallace to arrange shipment from Osnabruck in Germany to the UK, at which point the drugs were intercepted.
A fingerprint on the barcode attached to the parcel matched one of two members of the gang who had flown out to Germany. They were arrested when they arrived back at Stansted Airport and search warrants were carried out at ten addresses across Staffordshire and the West Midlands.
Drugs seized included cocaine, MDMA and cannabis. Further forensic and telephone analysis, as well as surveillance footage, linked the other members of the group who were all jailed for their part in the plot.
Burns – described as one of the heads of the organised crime group by police – is already serving a sentence of 12 years for importation of cocaine with a street value of £202,000 following a trial at Birmingham Crown Court in October 2017.
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He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cannabis and conspiracy to fraudulently evade the prohibition on the importation of cannabis at an earlier hearing relating to the latest incident and was handed two 10-month sentences to be served concurrently.
His co-leader of the gang, Andrew Lillis, 49 and of High Beech, Coventry, is already serving 27 years for his involvement with the importation of 45kg of heroin and conspiracy to supply 200kg of cannabis. He was found guilty of the latest charges and received two 12-month sentences to be served concurrently.
Two other members were found guilty of importing cannabis and conspiracy to supply cannabis:
- Errol Smith, aged 44, of Lymesy Street, Coventry, was sentenced to 4 years for importing cannabis.
- Richard Lyndon, aged 43, of Cannock Road, Burntwood, was sentenced 3 years 6 months with a further 28 days to serve concurrently for possession of MDMA.
Amy Harris, aged 28, of Blackberry Lane, Coventry, was sentenced to 2 years suspended for 18 months for the importation of cannabis. David Woodings, aged 41, of Blackberry Lane, Coventry, was given a two-year sentence suspended for 18 months for the same offence.
Robert Horton, aged 51, of Church Road, Norton Canes, Cannock, sentenced to eight months suspended for 18 months for breaching a serious crime prevention order.
Detective Inspector Pete Cooke, of Staffordshire Police’s major and organised crime department, said: “This has been a lengthy and protracted investigation spanning Europe, so we’re delighted to have secured convictions.
“Officers have worked diligently and meticulously to tease out a tangled web of criminality stretching from Germany and the Netherlands to the UK. We trust this sends out a clear message to criminals – do not attempt to import drugs and prey on the vulnerable in Staffordshire. If you do, wherever you are, we will find you.”