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Haverhill man jailed for his part in major county lines drugs operation

A Haverhill man who was one of the key figures in an organised crime group which supplied drugs to county lines gangs has been jailed for more than four years.

David Wilkinson, 36, of Primrose Hill, was sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court last week to four years and eight months for his part in the group that collectively, received prison terms totalling more than 40 years.

Christopher Golding headed up the network based in Harlow, where seven of the eight convicted men lived, which smuggled cocaine in containers through ports before selling it on to gangs supplying west Essex, Hertfordshire, London and Suffolk. He received a 12-year prison term.

David Wilkinson. Picture: Essex Police (47813342)
David Wilkinson. Picture: Essex Police (47813342)

Wilkinson and his brother Lee oversaw the day-to-day running of the drugs line.
The operation was estimated to have earned the gang at least £500,000 which was stashed in Bitcoin or laundered through the pub Golding ran as a licensee.

Two of the group members, Lee Collett and Lee Wilkinson, were arrested in May 2018.

Christopher Golding. Picture: Essex Police (47813352)
Christopher Golding. Picture: Essex Police (47813352)

As officers progressed their enquiries, they began identifying main players higher up the chain, eventually leading them to Golding.

Then last year an international operation - led in the UK by the National Crime Agency – saw the takedown of the encrypted communications platform EncroChat.

The secure mobile phone instant messaging was primarily used by criminals to co-ordinate and plan criminal activities including the distribution of illicit commodities and money laundering.

Messages obtained from infiltration of EncroChat provided further evidence of the scale of the drugs operation being run by Golding and dated back to Christmas Day 2017.

Lee Wilkinson. Picture: Essex Police (47813344)
Lee Wilkinson. Picture: Essex Police (47813344)

He was arranging bulk sales of cocaine, charging £41,000 for a kilogram.

Detective Chief Inspector Lewis Basford, of the Serious Violence Unit, said: “The extra evidence secured from the EncroChat messages was the final nail in the coffin for Golding and his key associates.

“With this information and the wealth of evidence officers had already secured throughout this complex investigation, they had nowhere to hide and no option but to plead guilty at court.”

The investigation culminated in dawn raids at 18 addresses in Harlow and one in Haverhill on October 8 last year.

More than 200 officers were involved in the warrants.

More than £100,000 in cash, assets and weapons, as well as £120,000 worth of cocaine was seized. Not all of the money has been counted due to how it is handled as part of the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Golding, 39 of Hart Road, Harlow, was among seven men who admitted conspiracy to supply a class A drug when they appeared at Chelmsford Crown Court on March 24.

* Stuart Thurgood, who was Golding's right-hand man in the criminal network, was handed eight years in jail;

* Lee Wilkinson was sentenced to six years and eight months;

* Adam Dalby recieved a sentence of six years and eight months;

* Robert Aldred was jailed for two years and eight months;

* Algirdas Gustaitas was sentenced to two years and four months;

* Lee Collet was given a two year sentence;

At the sentencing hearing the judge praised the police investigation and the prosecutor in the case

DCI Basford said: "What was unusual about this particular organised crime group was the key players were virtually all local to Harlow yet were supplying drugs gangs operating across London and three counties.

“The scale of their operation was huge and we estimate they were selling around 3kg of cocaine a week to about ten county lines gangs.

“The criminal network attempted to conceal their profits using cryptocurrency and tried to evade the notice of police by using encrypted messaging.

“But the tenacity of our specialist teams and colleagues in other law enforcement agencies ensured there was nowhere left for them to hide.

“Taking out Golding’s crime group is a major blow in drying up the supply to county lines gangs.

“We are targeting the chain at every level to dismantle drugs networks and make it even harder for them to operate.

“By taking out these links in the chain, we are also helping to protect vulnerable adults and children who these criminals exploit, groom and use for their own financial gain.”

Twelve people who were arrested as part of the investigation remain under investigation.