A 'prolific' drugs gang responsible for flooding Blackpool with class A drugs have been given jail sentences totaling almost a century.
As detectives unraveled the complex operation that saw heroin and crack cocaine brought into the resort from Merseyside, they also discovered evidence three senior members of the 'Carlos' gange had raped a woman while she was apparently unconscious.
Six people are now behind bars following a lengthy police investigation, codenamed Operation Lawson.
In November 2016, detectives identified Christopher Nimbley, 37, of Wordsworth Street, Liverpool, as the head of the illegal organisation.
Preston Crown Court heard how he ran a mobile phone used to order drugs, with customers then referred to another number to put them in touch with a street dealer.
The court was told how the gang exploited vulnerable people in Blackpool to work as runners, taking drugs and money for their bosses and coordinated through a phone relay.
An undercover investigation revealed how Nimbley and his lieutenants - Jeffrey Dillon, 24 of Inglewhite, Skelmersdale and Bradley Dillon, 20, of Lea Crescent, Ormskirk - oversaw the illicit enterprise.
Then in January last year, the arrest of a local drug dealer saw Nimbley flee back to Liverpool and leave the Dillon brother in charge of the Blackpool operation.
A series of drug raids last year lead to a string of arrests. Police also seized heroin and crack cocaine worth around £10,000 as well as items used to process and package the drugs.
The investigation uncovered that Mark Ansell, 42, of Lindbeck Drive, Blackpool would drive Nimbley to Toxteth in Liverpool at least three times a week to collect drugs.
James Rothwell, 28, of Hallcroft, Skelmersdale, was arrested following one of the raids, at a flat on Clevedon Road, North Shore.
Police later put out a public appeal on September 5 to track down Nimbley, who was not in when police raided his Toxteth home. He was later arrested in Liverpool and appeared in court on Tuesday.
When police examined phones as part of the investigation, they found evidence that Nimbley and the Dillons had raped a woman. They were found guilty of rape after a three-week trial in November.
At Tuesday's hearing, Nimbley was sentenced to seven years for conspiracy to supply class A drugs, 25 years for rape with an extended five year licence and five years for sexual assault.
Bradley Dillon was sentenced to three years for conspiracy to supply class A drugs, 14 years for rape and five years for sexual assault.
Jeffrey Dillon was handed four years for conspiracy to supply class A drugs and 22 years with a five year extended licence for rape.
The trio will serve their sentences concurrently.
Rothwell was jailed for five years and six months for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
Ansell was jailed for four years for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
Kerry Smith, 30, of Cunliffe Road, Blackpool, was given a four year and two week prison term for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.
Det Ch Insp Rebecca Smith, of Blackpool Police, said: “This type of criminal activity is very sophisticated and takes a lot of time to investigate and bring to court but we continue to work tirelessly to dismantle such groups as the Carlos gang and make our streets safer places to be and live.
“Nimbley and his associates were prolific in the resort – flooding the seaside town with illicit drugs.
“Through our investigation we also identified that Nimbley and the Dillon brothers had brutally raped a vulnerable woman. These are dangerous men who have exploited their power, not only to facilitate illegal activities, but to violate an innocent woman, causing extreme physical and emotional harm. Their acts are truly despicable and I hope that the result today can bring her some justice and allow her to move forward.
“It is not acceptable that gang leaders are getting rich out of someone else’s misery. We remain committed to disrupting such activity and where clear evidence exists, offenders will be put before the courts and brought to justice, as has been the case here.”