The leader of a sophisticated multi-million pound drug supply network has been sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Colin Jones operated from Liverpool and controlled a gang supplying heroin, cocaine and other drugs to north Wales and places like Aberdeen and Cornwall.
Mold Crown Court heard it was a “classic case of a large scale ‘county lines’ operation”.
Jones, 49, of Walton, Liverpool, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs at a trial in July.
He was also convicted of conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm.
Two other men were also jailed after admitting their roles in the plot.
Steven Dooley, 33, of Waresley Crescent, Liverpool, had an encrypted Encro device and was handed an eight-year sentence. Shaun Dooley, 31, of Bulford Road, Liverpool, got a nine-year term.
The operation run by Jones from the Sparrow Estate in the Walton area of Liverpool came to an end with a series of high-profile police raids in September last year.
The court heard Jones’s sophisticated network included encrypted mobile phones, and using lie detectors to ensure he could trust people.
He himself had nine mobile phones and two encrypted devices.
But when he fell out with one member of his gang, he arranged with others to have that person attacked.
Police intervened to stop the hit taking place, which they believe would have involved a shotgun.
Drugs were also swapped for high value cars, including Mercedes, Audis and Jaguars.
The majority of the transactions involved drug users ringing a hotline, known to the gang as “the echo line”.
The line operated seven days a week, and a group of call handlers were in place to take the calls and organise the drugs to be transported, often to locations in the Connah’s Quay, Flintshire.
Community ‘blighted’ by drugs
Outlining the case for the prosecution, barrister Andrew Jones said: “Between April and July 2018, there were 160,000 calls and text messages to the echo line.”
The police investigation to arrest the gang was called Operation Tide and will see a total of 18 defendants including Colin Jones sentenced between Wednesday and Friday.
Judge Niclas Parry told the court: “This gang controlled a significant portion of the drugs trade in Deeside, a community blighted by the health and social consequences of that trade.
“This conspiracy exemplifies one of the large scale, so-called ‘county lines’ operations.
“Each defendant plays a part which supports others, and that must be reflected in the sentence.
“This case does not involve any end-of-line street dealers.”
He sentenced Jones to a total of 21 years in prison, 14 years for seven counts of conspiracy to supply drugs, and seven years (to run consecutively) for conspiring to have a gang member attacked.
The remaining defendants will be sentenced between Wednesday and Friday.