The investigation led to £305,000 worth of drugs and nearly £200,000 worth of cash being seized from properties in south Bristol, the West Midlands and Reading.
Five men have been found guilty at Bristol Crown Court for their roles in conspiracies to bring hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of heroin, cocaine and cannabis to Bristol. Another three men have already pleaded guilty.
The investigation, led by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SW ROCU), led to £305,000 worth of drugs and nearly £200,000 worth of cash being seized from properties in south Bristol, the West Midlands and Reading.
The unit’s investigation, which began in August 2017, focused on Jimmy Hicks, 32, from Bideford Crescent in Filwood, Bristol, who oversaw the heroin and cocaine conspiracies.
Working closely with Hicks was 31-year-old Matthew Penny from Hartcliffe. On September 8, 2017, he was seen to meet Londoner Salat Dini, 32, at his Hartcliffe flat. On leaving, officers stopped Dini’s car nearby, he was taken into custody, and more than £25,000 was recovered from him and his vehicle. Penny’s flat was then searched, with a shoe box containing £50,000 worth of cocaine, two blocks of heroin worth £25,000, more than £14,000 cash and several mobile phones seized. A later search of a property on Bideford Crescent connected to Penny found a further £11,000 stashed in safes and cupboards.
Phone analysis showed that Hicks and Wilson Mirembe, who was in prison at the time, were in regular phone contact throughout this period.
Detective Inspector Paul Catton from the SW ROCU said: “These men were clearly dealing drugs on a commercial scale and the huge amounts of cash seized reflect the profits the group were set to make.
“But, our operation didn’t end there. Once we had Penny and Dini in custody, Hicks – with input from other members of the group – looked to bring in replacements and source more Class A drugs, this time from the West Midlands.”
At this point, David McPherson (now deceased) and Radoslaw Stark became involved and Hicks arranged for more Class A drugs to be delivered to Bristol, this time through West Midlands-based Wojciech Kolodziejcyk. Evidence gathered by officers showed Stark delivering drugs to McPherson’s Emersons Green home on October 26. After Stark left, they searched him, seizing the £32,000 that he was carrying in a drawstring bag. He also had a note containing McPherson’s address, which when forensically examined, contained Kolodziejcyk's fingerprint.
At the same time, police arrested McPherson and searched his home. Two compressed blocks of cocaine with a street value of £160,000 were seized, as well as a hydraulic press and safe from his garden shed. Hicks was arrested the same evening.
Four days later (October 30), officers arrested Kolodziejcyk and searched his home in Oldbury, West Midlands. Several stashes of cash totalling £86,000 were seized, as well as mobile phones. At a separate West Bromwich flat that he rented, 24kg of adulterant used to ‘cut’ the drugs into more deals was found, together with a hydraulic press, £7,000 worth of cocaine and several bags of cannabis.
DI Catton added: “The quantities of drugs and cash seized not only show how significant the organised crime group was, but reflect the skill of our unit, with excellent intelligence gathering and surveillance to ensure we struck at the right times, as well as determination to build the strongest evidence against them.”
Ann Hampshire, Senior Crown Prosecutor for the CPS, said: “This was a complex case with many lines of investigation. The CPS and police worked closely from an early stage of the investigation and this joint approach ensured that a strong case was built against the accused.
“The volume of drugs, and the amount of drug money, taken off the streets by this operation are significant steps in the fight against the supply of drugs and in the disruption of criminal gangs in the South West”.
The final two arrests came the following January, when officers saw Romeo Zani visit Laska’s Reading address and leave carrying a heavy carrier bag. Officers searched his Mercedes car and the bag, which was later found to contain Laska’s fingerprints, and the £21,600 inside were seized. Laska’s flat was searched, with cash, counterfeit identity cards and phones recovered. At Zani’s Surrey flat, officers found cannabis plants, scales and more counterfeit ID.
The eight men were convicted on November 21. Sentencing is scheduled for mid-December at Bristol Crown Court.
Ross Winter, 32, formerly of Bideford Crescent, Filwood, and Blerim Karanxha, 31 from Park Lane, Croydon, were found not guilty of conspiracy to supply class A.