A man who became ensnared in the shady world of class A drugs supply did so to pay off a debt for his struggling business, a court heard.

Last week, nine defendants were jailed for their part in a crime gang spanning multiple areas of North Wales and England.

John Philpotts, prosecuting, told the court the bulk of the case involved a conspiracy to supply class A and B drugs into North Wales in 2022 and 2023 - including cannabis into HMP Berwyn - and the Oswestry area.

The offences displayed "some hallmarks of a county lines operation", with the drugs being supplied by way of a graft phone (the 'AJ line') controlled by the gang's 25-year-old leader Adrian Julienne, of no fixed abode.

Lee Hopgood, of Sweeney Drive in Morda, appeared at Mold Crown Court for sentencing on Friday (December 8).

The 47-year-old, who appeared via video link from HMP Berwyn, was described as a "middle-man between Liverpool and the AJ Line."

In essence, the court heard, he was one of the upstream suppliers of heroin, cocaine and cannabis to Adrian Julienne's conspiracy group in North Wales - which placed him in a leading role within the gang.

Myles Wilson, defending, told the court: "He is someone who has a background of serving in the Army as a young man and then working for many years as a warehouse manager.

"He is [also] a family man and just before lockdown, he wanted to run his own business.

The Leader: Lee Hopgood (NWP)Lee Hopgood (NWP) (Image: North Wales Police)"He borrowed money to buy a car wash business in St Martin's.

"But that struggled and he borrowed more money from people who had connections in the drugs world.

"It was suggested he could get involved to repay his debt, which became bigger. He really has been left with nothing.

"This disastrous decision to become involved in this conspiracy will result in him spending a long time in prison away from his family.

"The impact it will have on his partner and children is the real punishment."

Judge Simon Mills told the defendant: "This is crime of the highest order and it has to be dealt with severely by the court in the hope of dissuading others from becoming involved in drugs dealing at this level because of the terrible harms class A drugs in particular wreak on communities in North Wales and Shropshire - which is where all of these drugs were destined to end up."

The Judge jailed Hopgood for nine years and four months.