Cracking down on the criminal 'pension pot' after prison life

Published date: 13 January 2014 |
Published by: Rhian Waller 
Read more articles by Rhian Waller  Email reporter


The North Wales Police initiative might sound like a single sting, but actually it brings together the existing serious and organised crime cases under one umbrella.

The operation is being launched today by detective chief superintendent Wayne Jones, who started his career with North Wales Police in the Wrexham area.

DCS Wayne Jones, head of crime services, said: “Operation Scorpion will manage all types of serious and organised criminality, including cross-border crime, armed robbery, criminal use of firearms, kidnapping or human trafficking, as well as drug production, importation and supply.

“Over the years we’ve had quite a large number and variety of operations targeting serious and organised crime in North Wales, but we are aware the disparate nature of these cases mean residents aren’t necessarily aware of the work that is going on.

“We’re bringing future operations together as a recognisable brand for the public.”

It is more than just a branding exercise though – North Wales Police are making a concerted effort to encourage residents to report signs of organised crime.

DCS Jones said: “We’re trying to increase the information flow both ways.

“We have an excellent record of working with our communities and very often that vital piece of information which helps us convict the criminals comes from the community.

“Those who are involved in serious and organised crime seldom do so quietly, they very often live well beyond their obvious means, drive expensive cars, live in large houses and are often out of the country.”

Detective Dafydd Jones, who has been an officer with the force for 30 years, sketched out a picture of the sort of figures Operation Scorpion was tackling.

He said: “We have seen an increase in the organisational capabilities of criminals in the last 10 years. One of the defining qualities of organised crime is that it can generate a lot of money.

“It’s a higher level of criminality, and sometimes people think they are such a high level they are untouchable. The crime does affect ordinary members of the public. Their actions generate misery and they can be involved in violence when aggressively pursuing drug debts.”

One recent operation saw a six-man criminal gang cracked during an investigation covering Deeside and Wrexham.

A police report stated: “Operation Empasm was a North Wales Police covert investigation into an organised crime group who conspired to supply cocaine from the Merseyside area into North Wales.

“During the course of the investigation it was identified that as a means of making further money to support this activity members of the OCG conspired to commit a burglary at Morgan Ceramics, Ruabon with the intention of selling the stolen platinum for further class A commodities.”

Det Jones said: “At the time there was a group we were investigating. Along the way one of the brothers found work in the factory, which used platinum in the manufacturing process. It was an inside job.”

The police used surveillance techniques, capturing video and still images, CCTV, forensic evidence and analysis of communications inside the criminal group to charge them.

The fall-out from that case saw drugs baron Lee Stoba, 40, of Riverside Close in Warrington, who was using a unit at Nelson Business Park in Wrexham as cover for his operations, plead guilty to handling stolen goods, in addition to two counts of conspiracy to supply cocaine.

He was jailed for 14 years at Mold Crown Court in spring last year, although the sentence was later reduced by a year on appeal.

Two others, Terry Powell, 24, of Watery Road, Wrexham and Kevin Williams, 38, a former coach driver of Bryn Offa, Wrexham, were also implicated in the platinum theft and sentenced to eight years and eight-and-a-half years in jail respectively.

Judge Mr Justice Royce, said it was clear Stoba had made a “substantial gain” from his dealings and had been found by police to be using nine different mobile phones and added Stoba had been “running this operation and was controlling what others did”.

Organised crime investigations stretch the breadth of North Wales.

On December 3, 2012, four men were sentenced at Mold Crown court over what North Wales Police called one of the most “sophisticated investigations” of commercial high-grade cannabis farming in North Wales.

During Operation Gumshoe, police tracked down the cannabis factory, which was set in disused railway tunnels near the Menai Business Park in Bangor.

Following sentence Supt Peter Newton Divisional Commander for Gwynedd and Ynys Mon said: “It is clear this group of criminals went to extreme and complex lengths not just to manufacture and set up the factory but also the work undertaken to conceal their illegal activity.

“This also shows that no matter how complex and clandestine drugs dealers think they are being we have the resources, technology and determination to find them out.”

As part of Operation Justice in 2011, two men were arrested after being caught in Mochdre, Conwy during a bust involving £92,000 worth of cocaine.

During a search at a connected Mochdre address, police seized military issue ammunition, explosives and a hand grenade.

DCS Wayne Jones was keen to emphasise that cases like this were unusual in Wales.

He said: “We don’t want to give people the wrong impression. North Wales is one of the safest places to live. But we don’t want to be complacent.

“We’re aware there are people out there who, if they see an opportunity to profit illegally, they will seize it.

“We want to send the message that not only will those found guilty go to jail for a very long time, we will also relentlessly pursue any assets they make while committing crime.

“There will be no criminal pension pot for them when they come out of prison.”

DCS Jones urged the public to contact the police if they had any suspicions of organised crime in Flintshire, Wrexham or elsewhere, and that any information would be treated in the strictest confidence.

Members of the public can contact North Wales Police on 101 or Crimestoppers 0800 555 111 to support Operation Scorpion.

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