Blackpool dealers who used phone line to sell hard drugs in resort are found guilty of offences after 'County Lines' drug trial

Crown Court
Crown Court
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Members of an organised crime group have been found guilty of conspiring to sell heroin and cocaine on the streets of Blackpool in a County Lines set up.

The Mancunian based group, which went by the name of “Junior”, had a phone number which local drug users in Blackpool could call to arrange to buy drugs.

A police sting called Operation Mallard exposed how drugs were regularly couriered from Manchester to Blackpool, and led to the arrests of 13 people - six of whom pleaded guilty to drugs charges.

READ MORE: Blackpool 'County Lines' drugs trial: Secret surveillance is played to jurors

They include Kane Hopkins, 24, Ivy Street, Manchester, and Christian Cook, 19, of Princess Street, Blackpool, who were said to be at the centre of the group.

They controlled the "Junior" phone and brought drugs from Manchester to Blackpool, where they would use local dealers to sell drugs in the resort.

Four of their street dealers, David Heaps, 38, of General Street, Karlie Manger-Kamara, 25, of HMP Risley, Warrington, Reece Barlow, 20, of Charles Street, Blackpool, and Theresa Ratcliffe, 34, of Albert Road, Blackpool, also pleaded guilty.

But several other people denied the charges and had a trial at Preston Crown Court.

The runners operated out of flats in multi-occupancy houses, which were used to store drugs.

Cook and Hopkins needed flats to store the drugs, cars and drivers to move them, and dealers or runners to sell them.

Defendants Dean Bennett, 33, of Spencer Court, Blackpool, and Jamie Copeland, 35, of no fixed address, were three such runners.

Nikolaos Mandulakis, 49, of Cragg Street, Blackpool, and James Baillie, 39, of Moore Street, Blackpool, were drivers for the group on vital resupply runs to Manchester.

Another man, Aaron Scott, 23, of Cunliffe Road, Blackpool, allowed the group to use his flat to store heroin and crack cocaine.

The trial was told undercover officers and covert surveillance was used to monitor the group's activities.

A lot of evidence came from video or still photographs of the defendants, or phone records.

Cell siting evidence highlighted how the "Junior phone" made repeated trips into Manchester, as it was using phone masts along a route from Blackpool into Manchester and back again.

On a single day in November 2017 the Junior number sent over 100 text messages in less 10 minutes - the prosecution said this shows the holder of the Junior phone had re-stocked and was advertising.

On May 2, 2018, Cook and Hopkins were arrested in the “House of Tan” salon on Westcliffe Drive in Blackpool.

Cook was found in one of the booths with 29 wraps of heroin and 39 of cocaine.

Hopkins was in another booth with £683 in his jacket pocket and another £385 hidden in a pack of wipes in the same booth.

Officers found a key to Scott's flat, where police found class A drugs inside the cooker hob extractor hood.

One defendant, Kelly Jones, 35, of Clevedon Road, Blackpool, was found not guilty.

But the other defendants were convicted and will be sentenced during a three day hearing starting on September 25.