A drug trafficking gang which flooded the Pennines with cocaine and cannabis has been jailed for more than 86 years.
The multi-million pound operation was exposed when a female courier was pulled over by police who were filming with the hit Channel 5 show Police Interceptors.
Joanne Cooke, 36, was first caught with £70,000 worth of cocaine and cannabis stashed in the boot of her car when her Kia was pulled over on the A19 at Crathorne, near Yarm, north Yorkshire.
Her arrest in April 2016 led to the collapse of a whole drug-supply network, which saw dealers based in Liverpool make at least 75 trips to Teesside to flood the area with up to £1m worth of cocaine.
Some 14 members have now been sentenced by Judge Paul Watson QC, who branded them a ‘plague on society’ at Teeside Crown Court on Thursday.
Cooke, of Liverpool, was jailed for four years and eight months for her role as a trusted courier for the drugs gang.
Teesside Crown Court heard that there was a flurry of mobile phone contact between people on both sides of the Pennines in the wake of her arrest.
Joanne Cooke (pictured), 36, was first caught with £70,000 worth of cocaine and cannabis stashed in the boot of her car when her Kia was pulled over on the A19 at Crathorne, near Yarm, north Yorkshire
The £70,000 worth of drugs seized from Cooke’s vehicle in 2016
Dennis Dawrant Jnr (pictured) was jailed at Teesside Crown Court for 12 years
Dennis Dawrant Snr was jailed at Teesside Crown Court for eight years and six months
Christopher Martin (left) was handed seven years and four months while Paul Havert (right) was sentenced to 15 months
Members of both sides of the operation were handed jail terms a two-day sentencing hearing.
Richard Omar, who headed the organisation on the Teesside end, was in regular contact with Liverpool drug kingpin Dennis Dawrant Jnr in the weeks leading up to and after Cooke’s arrest.
The 53-year-old helped orchestrate the shipment of drugs from the North West into the North East on at least 75 occasions.
Sharon Beattie QC, prosecuting, said Omar travelled to Liverpool the day after Cooke had been arrested.
She added: ‘There was a flurry of communication between Omar, Dawrant Jnr and Edward Metcalfe, the following day.
‘Cooke’s phone was seized and when she didn’t answer, and obviously didn’t turn up, there were attempts made to contact.
‘In fact the next contact she had was when she rang from a landline to Dawrant Jnr and the following day Omar went to Liverpool to meet them.’
Judge Paul Watson QC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, told the gang they were a ‘plague on society’ as he sentenced them all.
Omar, of Leathorpe Court, Thornaby, was jailed for 16 years for his role in dealing cocaine and cannabis across the area after pleading guilty to possession with intent to supply Class A and Class B drugs.
Another gang member, Christopher Martin, 35, also of Thornaby, was caught trying to flush drugs down the toilet when police raided his home. He was jailed for seven years and four months.
The court heard how members of the Merseyside-based gang, which were placed under surveillance by police during 2016-2017, had different roles in order to keep the drugs operation running smoothly.
Dennis Dawrant Junior was described as ‘the lynchpin at the heart of it’ and was responsible for arranging more than 70 courier trips to Teesside from Liverpool.
Edward Metcalfe (pictured) was given eight years for his role in the drug trafficking ring
His father Dawrant Senior, 62, was the ‘warehouse man’ who also kept notes on financial transactions, the court heard.
Meanwhile Metcalfe, Alan McCaig and Stephen Folan were all couriers who were believed to have been paid around £200 per journey.
McCaig and Folan were handed five years and four months and seven years and six months respectively. Metcalfe was handed eight years.
Kingpin Dennis Dawrant Jnr, of Liverpool, was jailed for 12 years, while his father Dennis Dawrant Snr was handed eight years.
Other gang members also received sentences, including Phillip Oram, 34, of Thornaby, who was jailed for 12 months for conspiracy to supply cannabis.
Ryan Stirling, 27, of Billingham, was jailed for five years for his role, while Nathan Moncur, 28, also of Billingham, was jailed for four years and eight months.
Paul Havert, 44, of Stockton, was sentenced to 15 months in prison and his 38-year-old brother James Havert was jailed for nine months.
Meanwhile Masum Ahmed, 47, of Tower Hamlets, London, was jailed for five years.
Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Sarah Robinson from Cleveland Police’s Organised Crime, Economic and Cyber Crime Unit, said: ‘Operation Mint was a challenging and protracted investigation.
‘I am extremely proud of the professionalism and dedication of the team who worked relentlessly to bring those responsible for this large-scale drugs supply to justice.’