A Sutton shop was a front for a multi-million pound drug operation which spread across the north of England, a court has been told.
Protein Masters on King Street was used to store large amounts of amphetamine, a jury at Nottingham Crown Court was told, with numerous defendants from Mansfield, Ashfield and across northern England facing multiple charges of producing and supplying class B drugs, and supplying class A drugs.
The shop was raided in July of last year by police who built up intelligence on the group.
Prosecutor Adrian Langdale QC, described the operation as a ‘large industrial-scale production’ by a ‘sophisticated, organised group’.
He added: “It was based around the Sutton and Mansfield area, but had a considerably further reach than that area.”
Facing trial is Daniel Robinson (29) of Gordon Crescent, South Normanton, who denies producing amphetamine and supplying cocaine, but admits supplying amphetamine.
Alongside him is Craig Donnelly (23) of Peel Street, Sutton, who faces the same charges and entered the same pleas.
Anthony Donnelly (31) of Southwell Road West, Mansfield, denies both producing and supplying amphetamine.
Catherine Harpham (24) of Victoria Street, Sutton, denies intending to supply cocaine and cannabis, while Michael Lawrence (24) of the same address admits both charges.
In addition, Richard Tryner (45) of High Street, South Normanton, denies supplying amphetamine.
Three other defendants are also in the dock from Hull and Liverpool.
Those due to appear for sentencing at a later date includes Ben Mullins (33) of Market Street, South Normanton, who admits producing and supplying amphetamine, and supplying cocaine, Andrew Brimble (48) of Staffa Drive, Tibshelf, who admits supplying amphetamine and Richie Fido (29) of no fixed address, who admits producing and supplying amphetamine.
Two other defendants from Manchester and Nottingham will also appear at a later date for sentencing on similar charges.
During his opening statements, Mr Langdale said Ben Mullins had been at the head of the group, while the Protein Masters health food shop was simply a ‘cover company’ owned by Anthony Donnelly.
He said the prosecutions comes down to four key events, the first being between 8th and 10th July 2013, when he claims a Manchester-based crime group were sent to meet with Mullins.
On their way back to Manchester, the gang was intercepted by police who found 9 1/2 kgs of pure amphetamine, which, once cut, would have had a street value of £227,000.
Secondly, Mr Langdale says there was then the raid on Protein Masters, where officers found ‘large amounts’ of amphetamine sulphate, known as ‘speed’, where the crown says it was being cut and packaged ready to be sold.
It is alleged they found equipment that Mr Langdale claims to have had no other purpose but to process drugs.
The court was told during the raid that two defendants, Craig Donnelly and Daniel Robinson, locked themselves in the premises making it difficult for the police to gain entry.
During that time it was also claimed that the pair tried to dispose of the drugs by flushing them down the toilet, but ended up blocking the drains.
When they gained entry, officers recovered almost 5kg of drugs.
“Who knows how many kilogrammes had been disposed (before the police gained access),” added Mr Langdale.
The third key event happened in November 2013 when Mr Langdale says Catherine Harpham and Michael Lawrence were watched by police in a village near Hull, as another defendant, Paul Critchlow, dropped a black holdall through the window of their car.
When they were stopped, the bag was found to contain three blocks of near-pure cocaine with a street value of £600,000.
Finally, in late November, a 67kg shipment of amphetamine was recovered by police from a taxi which the crown say was bound for Liverpool, with a street value of £1.3 million.
The crown says they can prove the case against the defendants, through the use of ‘dirty phones’, typically pay-as-you-go mobile phones the defendants used which they thought could easily be disposed of without being traced.
Mr Langdale says that phone calls to Anthony Donnelly by the pair as the police attempted to raid the Protein Masters shop helps implicate Mr Donnelly in the operation.
Describing him as a ‘key player’, Mr Langdale said Anthony Donnelly’s van was often used as part of the operation.
Mr Langdale said: “All participants were aware of police techniques and used dirty phones that they could dispose of. They had high-level security equipment to make sure police did not interrupt the drug supply.”
Despite using ‘dirty phones’, he said the crown would use records from mobile phone masts to prove when and where calls were made.
He also told the jury that the use automated number plate recognition footage from cameras would be used as evidence to help prove meetings between gangs took place around the country.
Finally, he said that transactions between members of the gang and a shop in Middlesbrough to buy large quantities of caffeine - which he says was predominantly used to cut the recovered amphetamine with - will also help prove the crown’s case.
Judge James Sampson told the jury that he expects the trial to last three weeks.
The trial continues.