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Drugs gang sentenced to more than 80 years behind bars

1 March, 2015

Eleven members of a Preston-based drugs gang have been sentenced to a total of 82 years and 11 months imprisonment for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

The gang was charged as part of Operation Fez, a Lancashire Police investigation into the large scale supply of heroin and crack cocaine in Preston. The gang used Avenham Park to stash drugs and firearms and deal drugs.

Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, the sentence would give reassurance to communities affected by the gang, as well as sending out a strong message to young people of the consequences of criminal behaviour.

He said: “We cannot and will not tolerate any kind of serious and organised crime in Lancashire. “Lancashire is a safe place to live and work, but we want to keep it that way.

“I will continue to work with the chief constable to make sure resources are appropriately distributed to allow officers to investigate and tackle drug and gang-related crime.

“I have also secured £2.2million of funding from the Home Office Innovation Bid, which will be used to prevent people falling into a life of crime or joining gangs.”

The gang, headed up by Ryan Malik, conspired to supply drugs between 1st July 2013 and 1st September 2014 in the Avenham area of Preston.

DCI Ken Mclean, from Lancashire Police, said: “I am pleased with these significant sentences totalling almost 83 years imprisonment.

“Malik and his criminal associates were a blight on Preston, and especially the Avenham area and these sentences send a clear message that the police and community will not tolerate this drug dealing behaviour and associated violence.

“No-one is untouchable and we will continue to use all the criminal and civil legislation at our disposal to put individuals such as this gang behind bars.

“I would like to thank all those involved in this operation and those in the community without whose support these successful prosecutions would not have been possible.” Brett Gerrity, Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West, added: “The Avenham gang were charged following a highly effective covert police operation. They were responsible for supplying massive quantities of heroin and crack cocaine in the Preston area over a 14-month period.

“They used Avenham Park, where families visited and children played, as the business centre for their drugs operation, where they secreted a live and loaded firearm in bushes and set up and orchestrated drug deals.

“The members of the gang played specific roles within the conspiracy, with Malik being at the head. Although he was never too far away from the action, he orchestrated it that he was never directly involved in the drug deals. Evidence however showed that he controlled and directed the Avenham gang working closely with Ashley Keaney, Ruben Vitorino and Ashley Tunstall.

“The conviction and sentence of Malik sends out a clear message to those who think they are untouchable if they operate at arm’s length from the actual supply of drugs without getting their own hands dirty.

“This gang being taken out of operation has without a doubt made the streets of Preston a considerably safer place to live. The CPS will continue to work closely with police to bring to justice those who seek to make a living from organised crime and who hide behind the fear created in the local community to continue to conduct their illegal activities.”

Editor’s note:

Individual sentences:

  • Ryan Malik was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment and a serious crime prevention order which will be activated upon his release from prison.
  • Ashley Keany was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment.
  • Ashley Tunstall was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment.
  • Ruben Vitorino pleaded guilty to affray was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and was sentenced to 9 years and 2 months imprisonment.
  • John Hope pleaded guilty of two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and was sentenced to 6 years and 9 months imprisonment.
  • Ainsley Cox pleaded guilty of two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment.
  • Reece Connor pleaded guilty of two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and one count of possessing a bladed article was sentenced to 4 years and 8 months imprisonment.
  • Shaun Abbott pleaded guilty of two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and was sentenced to 4 years and 10 months imprisonment.
  • Denise Bradley was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment.
  • Louis Brown was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and wounding and was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months imprisonment.
  • A youth defendant pleaded guilty of two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.
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