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Gang sentenced for using drones to drop drugs in prisons



Seven members of a gang which used drones to drop half a million pounds worth of drugs into prisons have been given jail terms ranging from three to 10 years.

Six others involved in the plot were given suspended jail terms and a community order.

The sophisticated operation was headed by 31-year-old Lee Anslow who orchestrated around half of the flights from behind bars at HMP Hewell in Worcestershire.

When police searched his cell they found drugs with an estimated prison value of £20,000. The value of drugs in prison is around four times the street value.

They also discovered fake food cans containing phones and a list of contact numbers.

A set of digital scales used to weigh drugs were also discovered hidden inside the bottom of a tub of Nesquik.

Anslow was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Drone and fishing wire used to drop drugs into prisons
Drones were used to to drop drugs into prisons

24-year-old Brandon Smith from Tipton was the primary pilot at the controls of at least 30 of the drone deliveries.

He was the pilot of the first drone to be seized near HMP Oakwood in Wolverhampton on 7 May 2016.

It was carrying 80g of synthetic cannabis and two mobile phones.

A second drone was found crashed at HMP Hewell on 15 October 2016. Another was recovered after it crashed on 10 December 2016 outside HMP Birmingham. It was carrying 200g of spice, two phone and ten SIM cards.

Smith was sentenced to seven years in jail.

Other drone pilots were Justin Millington, 24, jailed for three years and four months, and Paul Payne, 33, jailed for three years and eight months – minus 83 days served on remand.

Paul Ferguson and Stefan Rattray were inmates who distributed drugs in prisons. They were given jail sentences of four years and nine months, and four years and six months, respectively.

The gang was charged after police carried out a series of raids in March of this year across Birmingham and the Black Country as well as interviewing several prisoners at jails across the country.

Its other members were Shane Hadlington, 29, from Olbury, sentenced to four years and three months in jail; Callum McDonough, 25, from Northfield, sentenced to six months suspended for 18 months plus a community order; Jake Blewitt, 21, from Tipton, sentenced to six months suspended for 18 months.

Detective Inspector Gareth Williams from the Prison Investigation Team, investigating the drug drones
DI Gareth Williams said it had been a ‘very complex, detailed’ investigation

Also part of the gang were Dwayne Tinker, 21 from Minworth, sentenced to six months suspended for 18 months plus a community order and curfew; and Ryan Greave, 21 from Minworth, given a community order.

41-year-old Stella Deakin from Dudley admitted supplying phones and SIM cards into prison. She was sentenced to six suspended for 18 months.

The investigation is believed to be the biggest ever of its kind in UK policing.

The gang of 12 men and one woman made at least 55 drone drops into prisons in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Worcestershire, Warrington, Lancashire and Liverpool.

It’s estimated they flew £550,000 worth of drugs into prisons.

The drones were carrying mainly skunk and synthetic cannabis, plus amphetamines, crack cocaine and heroin along with steroids, mobile phones, SIM cards and memory sticks.

Over a period of fourteen months, the group managed to fly almost 1kg of cannabis and 1.5kg of spice or mamba over prison walls.

Eleven of the drones crashed or were recovered by the police and analysis of their flight recorders enabled officers to establish where prison drops had been made.

Detective Inspector Gareth Williams from the Prison Investigation Team, said: “This is a landmark case it’s the biggest drone drug smuggling racket into prisons ever seen in the UK.

“A drone flyer, assisted by one or two others, would speak to an inmate on a contraband phone to guide a drone into prison where the attached parcel would be hooked off using sticks.

“Drugs on board the 11 seized drones had an estimated prison value of around £110,000 – so with at least 55 flights that amounts to more than half a million pounds worth of drugs they’ve tried to land behind prison walls.

“The convictions come on the back of a very complex, detailed investigation and I’d like to praise the tenacity and determination of all our investigators, plus the analyst who interrogated large amounts of phone data, who played a part in this success.

“Drug use behind bars fuels violence and self-harm, increasing pressure on prison staff, so it’s vitally important we do all we can to cut off the supply lines − and anyone convicted of supplying banned substances into prisons can soon expect to be inmates themselves.”

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