An underworld drug gang led by a semi-professional footballer were jailed for nearly 40 years in Manchester yesterday.
The mob of eight were busted by police with more than £900,000 cocaine and £110,000 in cash during a search of a home in Denton.
Robert Hartshorne, 29, – formerly of Glossop North End – was identified as the leader after Steven Stenson was found with £95,000 of cocaine in a stop-and-search by police in Stockport in November 2010.
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Rick Williams from Greater Manchester Police’s Force Drugs Unit, said: “Over many months, this group were evidenced running a highly organised drugs supply business, whereby high quality cocaine was diluted with cheaper adulterants in order to maximise profits and fund the lavish lifestyles of the ringleaders.
“It was the actions of Hartshorne and his criminal associates that caused misery to the lives of the law-abiding members of the local community, and it is for that reason that I take great satisfaction in the sentences handed down today.”
CASH BUST: Around £77,000 seized by officers during raid
Superintendent Neil Evans from GMP’s Tameside division said: “Drugs are a major driving force behind many other crimes such as burglary, robbery and vehicle crime and so by targeting dealers, we are making our streets safer.
“Today’s sentences just go to show that crime really does not pay and work will continue in Tameside through hard-hitting drugs operations to tackle those involved in this industry. We will also take back from them the money and assets they have made from their criminal dealings.”
A search of Robert Hamilton’s home uncovered a drugs haven, where police seized a block of cocaine, a suitcase containing 51 bars of cannabis resin, two sets of electronic scales and a large bag of Benzocaine, which is a common mixing agent for cocaine. In total, the stash was worth around £345,000.
Further investigation revealed Hartshorne owned six houses worth over £630,000, which he rented out in a bid to legitimise his illicit income.
Hartshorne also rented himself a luxury apartment in the Dunham area of Altrincham, which police suspected was to be used as a safe house.
Robert Hartshorne was jailed for 11 years.
Michael Gaskell, of Fir Tree Crescent, Dukinfield, was jailed for seven years six months.
Sean Cannon, 29, of Copeland Street, Hyde, was jailed for six years.
Michael Tingey, 53, of Thornhill, Epping, Essex, was jailed for four years nine months.
Douglas Merron, 32, of Boden Street, Denton, was jailed for three years nine months.
Stephanie Merron, 29, of Boden Street, Denton, received a 12 month sentence suspended for 18 months.
Clare Bailey, 27, had previously pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs and received a eight month sentence suspended for 18 months.
Wesley Higgins, 34, of Holmes Way, Denton, and Alan Page, 36, of Bunkers Hill Road, Hattersley, Hyde, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine at an earlier hearing. They will be sentenced at a later date.
Robert Hamilton, 31, of Cheetham Fold Road, Hyde, pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine and cannabis with intent to supply. He was sentenced on August 31 2011 at Bolton Crown Court to nine years in prison.