A drugs gang has been jailed for nearly 80 years after a covert police operation uncovered £1 million worth of class A substances.
The gang was nailed organising the supply of massive quantities of drugs around South Yorkshire and beyond – with a number of deliveries made by a taxi driver carrying drugs concealed in boxes of dog biscuits.
In another incident, detectives intercepted gang members travelling from Doncaster to Sheffield in a BMW, which led to a dramatic high-speed chase through the city.
Simon Kealey, prosecuting at Sheffield Crown Court, said in February 2013, taxi driver Mohammed Majid was caught transporting 3kg of heroin and nearly 14g of crack cocaine to London.
He said: “Within the boot was a box of dog biscuits which contained 2.98kg of heroin, valued at £298,000 at street level.
“In the passenger footwell was a paper bag containing a salt pot, within which was a further 78.9kg heroin and a cling film wrap of cocaine worth £1,370.”
The court heard police intelligence found gang member Jonathan McDonald was helping to arrange the deliveries. Mr Kealey said: “In total there were five other occasions when Majid travelled to either London or Birmingham.”
The court heard that through monitoring mobile phone activity, police were able to identify the other drugs ring members.
In October 2013, officers raided the home of Ricky Kitchen, of Callow Drive, Gleadless.
Mr Kealey said: “He was asked if there were any unlawful items in the premises and he pointed to a storeroom off the lounge.”
In the storeroom, officers found a metal press and cylinder along with a holdall, ruck sack and large clear bags containing class A drugs.
In Kitchen’s kitchen, there were three sets of scales, blenders, jugs, face masks, a mixing bowl, microwave and three bags of dog food.
In total, drugs worth up to £715,000 at street level were seized.
Despite the seizure, the court heard the conspiracy continued and on September 5 last year, a marked police car tried to stop two vehicles as they came off junction 34 of the M1.
One of the cars went through two sets of red lights and disappeared into a housing estate, while the other, a BMW driven by Moshahid Ali, headed towards the city centre. At one point, the car was going at 85mph in a 30mph zone.
Mr Kealey said: “At a point in the pursuit, the BMW had performed an unusual manoeuvre. Police officers returned to that spot and recovered a bag containing bundles of cash. It is estimated there was £50,000.”
Detectives investigated the financial backgrounds of all defendants. The court heard defendant Liam Kitchen had received just £97 in wages over a seven-year period, and Job Seekers’ Allowance of nearly £9,000.
Both he and his girlfriend, Stephanie Belk, both of Plowright Way, Gleadless Valley, had requested crisis loans from the Department of Work and Pensions, yet more than £6,000 cash had been deposited into Kitchen’s bank account and Belk had booked two holidays in summer 2013 worth almost £3,000.
Liam Kitchen, 24, and Ricky Kitchen, 23, were both jailed for 10 years. Raja Khan, 29, of St Lawrence Road, Tinsley, got nine years and Moshahid Ali, 27, of Nidd Road, Darnall, five years.
Stephanie Belk, 27, got 16 months and Rushpal Aujla, 34, two years. All had pleaded guilty to various offences relating to the conspiracy.
Jonathan McDonald, 38, of Halifax, was jailed for 20 years. Mohammed Majid, 38, of Huddersfield, got 10 years and Lisa Seymour, 33, also of Huddersfield, 12 years. All were found guilty at trial of various offences relating to the conspiracy.