Operation Elegant | Eight sentenced to 40 years after police break up drugs gang
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Eight people have been jailed as part of an organised crime gang which trafficked cocaine worth almost £200,000 into Llanelli over a five-month period.
Dyfed-Powys Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Team dismantled the gang which was transporting the class ‘A’ drug between Swansea, Pontarddulais and Llanelli in a covert operation named ‘Operation Elegant’.
The operation resulted in more than 2kg of cocaine being supplied by the gang.
Nine defendants, including one who will be sentenced at a later date, admitted their involvement in the conspiracy to supply cocaine between May and October 2020. The eight sentenced so far have been jailed for a total of 40 years.
Detective Constable Mark Jones, Op Elegant lead officer, said: “This was a lengthy operation involving a number of departments across the force, who investigated intelligence, coordinated a series of warrants, interviewed the defendants and carried out detailed enquiries into their activity.
“Today’s sentencing culminates more than a year of police work, which saw the disruption of a major supply chain into Llanelli and the dismantling of an organised crime gang, which was no doubt linked to illegal behaviour on a wider scale.”
DC Jones explained that the Llanelli gang was headed up by 27-year-old Shaun Hearne, who put together a team of trusted associates to move, store, prepare and distribute cocaine throughout Llanelli.
When restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the availability of the drug, Hearne was not deterred, and approached 25-year-old Aaron Hookway, a Swansea dealer, to source it.
This proved successful, as enquiries revealed the gang bought drugs from upstream supplier Hookway on 13 occasions, using 36-year-old Rebecca Viola’s home in Felinfoel as a stash house to store the commodity.
From there, couriers and sub-dealers Laura Coelho, Neville Ayres, Jordan Dale Parry, Keiran Price and Daniel Rhodri Evans were responsible for distributing the drugs.
“Through our investigation, we discovered that the gang was made up of a number of people acting as couriers and sub-dealers in various areas across Llanelli, directed by Hearne,” DC Jones said.
“Our first step in disrupting their activity was in stopping a car driven by Neville Ayres on 1st September, 2020, during which uniformed officers seized 10 ounces of cocaine.
“Ayres was a trusted employee of Hearne, who had such a blasé attitude towards his illegal behaviour that he had this huge amount of cocaine – worth more than £22,000 – in plain sight in the footwell of his car”.
“Despite this upset, the gang continued with their activity for another month, when we targeted all members with 15 warrants carried out across Llanelli.”
The week-long enforcement phase saw 13 people arrested, with searches also carried out at homes in Swansea, Ceredigion and Cornwall.
Nine of those arrested were charged with being involved in a conspiracy to supply cocaine. All nine admitted the offence, and eight of them received the following sentences on Monday 6th September 2021 and Tuesday 7th September 2021 at Swansea Crown Court:
Head of Llanelli gang Shaun Hearne, aged 27, of Isgraig, Burry Port: 8 years 8 months.
Swansea ‘upstream’ dealer Aaron Hookway, aged 25, of Station Road, Fforestfach: 9 years.
Courier and Hearne’s partner Laura Coelho, aged 28, of Bond Avenue, Llanelli: 2 years 5 months.
Llanelli courier and sub-dealer Neville Ayres, aged 42, of West End, Llanelli: 4 years 9 months.
Felinfoel storage and sub-dealer Rebecca Viola, aged 36, of Cae Glas, Llanelli: 4 years.
Llanelli sub-dealer Jordan Dale Parry, aged 25, of Dilwyn Street, Llanelli: 3 years 4 months.
Llanelli courier Keiran Price, aged 28, of Tirgoff, Llangennech: 4 years 10 months.
Llwynhendy sub-dealer Daniel Rhodri Evans, aged 29, of Heol Elfed, Llanelli: 3 years.
The ninth, Llanelli courier Jeffrey Parker-Ward, aged 23, of Stepney Street, will be sentenced at a later date.
As part of the operation, a number of high-value vehicles were seized, along with £11,000 in cash.
Further work is now being carried out as part of a proceeds of crime act investigation, aimed at confiscating criminal assets gained through illegal activities.
“The sentences of a total of 40 years in prison is a testament to the work that was put into this investigation,” DC Jones said.
“Not only have we taken a substantial amount of cocaine out of the supply chain, but we have disrupted the supply into Llanelli, where it would have caused an untold amount of harm to the community.
“I would like to thank all officers involved for their hard work, determination and commitment with HH Judge Rees commenting that the investigation was commendably executed. I would like to reassure the public that we will continue to act on all concerns over drugs use and abuse.”
BCU Commander for Carmarthenshire Gary Phillips said: “The sentences handed out at Swansea Crown Court are not only a reflection of the significant effort that has been put into this police investigation, but they also send a clear message that being involved in serious and organised crime in Carmarthenshire will ultimately lead to you being targeted by police and put before the courts.”