Leeds: 24 Years Jail For ‘Central Organiser’ Of Cocaine Trafficking Network: SOCA

4 Apr

1 April 2011

One of SOCA’s most-wanted, who went on the run for more than three years, has today been sentenced to 24 years in prison for his part in a sophisticated criminal gang which trafficked cocaine worth millions of pounds into the UK.

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Edward Morton, 37, from Leeds was placed on the Operation Return most-wanted list after failing to appear for trial in 2008. The operation is a joint initiative between SOCA, Crimestoppers and the Dutch authorities which targets UK fugitives believed to be on the run in the Netherlands. The other six members of the gang pleaded guilty and were sentenced to a total of 82 years. Morton was rearrested in Leeds in September 2010 in a joint SOCA and West Yorkshire Police operation.

The organised crime gang, which included members from West Yorkshire, Northamptonshire and the Midlands, trafficked cocaine from Holland in 2007. They regularly changed their mobile telephones and used public telephone kiosks in an attempt to frustrate law enforcement agencies. Organisers Anthony Barrett and Edward Morton conspired with Michael Smith, Maurice Quinn, Robert Barrett and Stephen Wood to arrange the importation and distribution of the drugs, which were brought into the UK by a seventh member Frederick Griffiths. He would drive over to Holland, make the collections and bring them back in a hidden compartment of his van.

Leeds Crown Court heard that SOCA surveillance identified Morton as an integral member of this gang. He had many contacts in Holland; mobile phones showed that several of the Dutch contacts used by Morton were also used by Anthony Barrett and Michael Smith. Morton used at least 10 different mobile phones during a three month period, often five or six at a time. He had regular meetings with the other gang members, always just before Griffiths left for Amsterdam. On 14 December 2007 Anthony Barrett embarked on a 240 mile trip for a 20 minute meeting with Morton in a café in Birstall. The gang was arrested four days later.

Today His Honour Judge Marson QC called Edward Morton a ‘central organiser’ in the conspiracy and said “The severe sentence is not only to punish him but to deter others.”

SOCA’s Gerry Smyth said:

“This operation succeeded in breaking up a highly organised professional drugs trafficking gang who brought large quantities of controlled drugs onto the streets of the North East of England. Morton tried to evade justice by hiding in Amsterdam. He failed. SOCA and its national and international partners are determined to bring fugitives back to the UK courts to face justice.”

Dave Cording, Crimestoppers’ Director of Operations, said: “This is the first court result we have had from our campaign working in the Netherlands with M. (Netherlands Crimestoppers).

“With Operation Captura in Spain continuing to go from strength to strength with 43 fugitives arrested out of 60 appeals, I hope Operation Return will follow that success. This court result demonstrates to the other wanted individuals hiding out in Amsterdam that eventually law enforcement will catch up with them. There is nowhere to hide.”
www.soca.gov.uk
Read more about the launch of Operation Return here.

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