THIS is the unassuming house in a sleepy Worcester street that was hiding a crack cocaine drugs operation worth up to £40,000 a month, it can be revealed.
Behind the white, wooden door of the Wyld’s Lane house lay Black Country drug dealers who thought the city was “a soft touch.”
But they met their match with “Danny” – an undercover West Mercia Police officer, who infiltrated th operation.
Daniel Henry, 24, of Glenworth Gardens, Wolverhampton, Jewade Graham, 23, of Crosby Close, Wolverhampton, Omari Sampson, 23, of Newmarket Close, Wolverhampton and Nico Hemmings, 22, of Walsall Street, Willenhall were jailed for more than 45 years between them at Worcester Crown Court for conspiracy to supply crack cocaine across Worcester, Malvern and Hereford.
Now, the officer who helped put them behind bars, Detective sergeant Andy Bailey of West Mercia Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit has praised the heroism of ‘Danny’, the test purchase officer who infiltrated the drugs gang as part of Operation Dorado.
The gang sold between £30,000 and £40,000-worth of crack cocaine in January alone in Worcester, Hereford and Malvern, he said.
One of the defendants even bragged about his dealer lifestyle in a rap song found on his phone.
In the song, Daniel Henry bragged about “branching out” to Worcester to get the “dough” and how he used to walk around with holes in his shoes but “now I walk around with gold around my neck”.
“An undercover officer like Danny has to infiltrate criminal gangs and live as a criminal,” said DS Bailey.
“ It is one of the biggest undercover operations in West Mercia to date.
“This particular group thought Worcester was a soft touch and today we have proved them wrong.”
And he welcomed yesterday’s verdict, which came after a three-week trial.
“It’s very good,” he said.
“We’re extremely pleased with the sentences handed down. We hope it will serve as a deterrent to any criminals concentrating on targeting Worcestershire and Herefordshire.”
The four men were described as managers who used middle-men, or runners, to get the drugs to the addicts rather than doing it themselves, helping them to avoid detection.
DS Bailey said the gang had effectively operated a call centre and a ‘Jimmy number’, the name they used when people called to buy drugs.
Before yesterday’s sentencings, the operation had already proved a success, leading to dealers getting a combined sentence of 101 years and seven days, with 35 years now added to the grand total.
DC Sally Harrison, also involved in the operation, said: “We will not allow people to come down into our communities and bring class-A drugs, which are such a destructive force in people’s lives.”
A flat in Wyld’s Lane was used to deal the drugs to local dealers. Ronan Hanchard-Kerr, 22, of Clark Road, Wolverhampton and John-Pierre Francis, 36, previously of Wyld’s Lane, acted as runners to complete the deal.
They have already been sentenced to four years and four months and two years respectively for their roles.
An investigation into the gang began in October 2011 following concerns raised in the community.
The covert operation to gather intelligence lasted six months, ending in February last year, and the arrest phase began in May last year with a series of ‘strike days’ in which around 25 homes were raided.
Officers used several techniques to gather evidence, including following suspects, tracking their vehicles, using covert recordings and video footage and ‘intense telecomms analysis’ to tie the defendant to the drugs.
A core of seven officers provided support to Danny but during the arrest or strike phase hundreds of officers were involved.