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Footballer turned drug dealer jailed

A former footballer who ran a County Lines drug operation, using teenagers to deliver heroin and crack cocaine into Burton and Rugeley, has been jailed for 10 years.

The judge who sentenced Shylo Thomas said he had been ‘aggressive and intimidating’, cutting off those who worked for him from their families.

Six men and a youth from Birmingham have all been sentenced for their roles in the conspiracy to supply heroin.

Stafford Crown Court heard that a total of 1.5kg of class-A drugs had been moved in seven months in 2017/18.

Thomas ran the network of street dealers, detailing their income, rent payments and shift patterns in a handwritten ledger discovered by detectives.

Thomas, 28, of Hutton Road, Handsworth, Birmingham, was jailed for 10 years seven months, and Malachi Mitchell, 26, of Leasow Drive, Edgbaston, Birmingham, was jailed for three years seven months.

The court was told that Thomas, who played as a youngster at Walsall FC, and Mitchell used two mobile phones – which sent out up to 80 texts per day - to run their operation, referring to themselves as ’Turbo.’

Drug-users would place an order with one of the lines and Thomas and Mitchell would then direct their street dealers, remotely, to meet the user and carry out the transaction.

The court heard that Thomas had recruited street dealers, most being vulnerable and as young as 15, in the County lines operation. The dealers were transported from Birmingham to Burton and Rugeley where it was their responsibility to meet users and supply them with heroin or cocaine for cash.

These dealers were given accommodation in Burton and Rugeley by Thomas, which was either home addresses of local drug users or by occupying premises as squatters. This known as ‘cuckooing’ a common feature of County Lines operations.

Detectives gathered evidence from CCTV, mobile phones, forensic examinations and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR).

The conspiracy ran from August 2017 to February 2018. Thomas was arrested on 20 February 2018 and found in possession of one of the ‘Turbo’ phones and a further phone belonging to a 15-year-old girl that he was exploiting as a ‘street dealer’ in Burton. Mitchell was arrested at his home address in April 2018 in possession of heroin and crack cocaine.

The following all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin:

Callum Murphy, aged 19, of Arthur Street, Small Heath, Birmingham, sentenced to 22 months; he has already served this on remand and receives a 12-month community order, two-month curfew
Troy Farquharson, aged 24, of Francis Road, Yardley, Birmingham, sentenced to three years, including pleading guilty to a burglary
Kieron Smith, aged 19, of Tame Avenue, Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, sentenced to two years suspended for 18 months, community order, four-month curfew and 150 hours’ unpaid work
Rayees Ali, aged 18, of Marsh Lane, Erdington, Birmingham, sentenced to 12-month community order, four-month curfew and 120 hours’ unpaid work
A 17-year-old youth from Birmingham who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced to a 12-month community order, four-month curfew and 60 hours’ unpaid work

Atiyyah Gidden, aged 20, of Grosvenor Road, Aston, Birmingham, will be sentenced in December.

Detective Sergeant Jim Byrne, of Staffordshire Police, said: “We’re glad this conspiracy, which was highly organised, has been brought to an end and this group are now serving their sentences.

“We will not tolerate drug-dealing in Staffordshire and, following on from a number of successful convictions across the county, we will continue to bring offenders before the courts.”

Judge Jonathan Salmon said: “This was a difficult case and considerable time and expertise was demonstrated by the officers who investigated.

“It is a tragedy to see such exploitation of the young.”

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