Ten members of Organised Criminal Groups (OCGs) who were operating drugs networks worth hundreds of thousands of pounds across three counties have been sentenced to 58 years in prison between them.
The nine men and one woman were members of competing OCGs running County Lines operations in the city centre during 2020 and 2021.
In all cases, a ‘drugs phone line’ was used to take orders and arrange deliveries, with members across the country playing different roles including supplying, sourcing, storing or selling the Class A drugs.
In some cases, mass marketing text messages with comments such as “Try before ya buy”[sic] were sent out to drug users or potential buyers.
One of the gangs sentenced, dubbed the Jimmy Line, was involved in the supply of hundreds of thousands of pounds of Class A drugs across two counties in the UK during September 2020 and June 2021.
One of the members, Ryan Williams, 33, of Acregate Digmoor, Skelmerdale in Lancashire, coordinated the supply of the drugs from his seven-bedroom house while another, Roberts Sokolovs, 22, of HMP Lincoln, bragged about his exploits by referring to himself as the “Latvian Pablo Escobar”, in reference to the Columbian drug lord.
During warrants issued at addresses of those involved in the Jimmy Line, more than £27,000 cash – some stashed in bundles in a rucksack – was seized, along with a variety of weapons. Criminal property, including clothing, jewellery, handbags and electrical goods was also seized from Williams’ Lancashire home.
It is estimated that between September 2020 and May 2021, the OCG would have made up to £104,220 from their Lincoln drug deals.
The second OCG, dubbed the Django Line, was responsible for bringing drugs from stash houses in Nottingham into Lincoln and dealing in the High Street and other areas. The gang would send out mass marketing messages to addicts, or potential customers with drugs advertised in code.
During warrants carried out at a flat rented by Kelvin Tutani, 27, of Yarborough Road, Lincoln, a shortened shotgun was found. Evidence showed both he and Babatunde Omotade, 27, of HMP Lincoln, had handled the weapon.
A handgun was also found at a stash house in Nottingham, which Noman Hassan, 25, of Bentinck Road, Nottingham pleaded guilty to possessing. Other weapons including a zombie knife, lock knives, and machetes were also found at another property in Nottingham.
It is estimated that in just 59 days, the gang made almost £20,000 worth of drug deals.
All members of both gangs faced charges of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs or being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs, and some faced additional charges of possession of criminal property and offensive weapons.
Superintendent Phil Baker from Lincolnshire Police, said: “Our operation – Operation Stabilise – was launched following an emerging intelligence picture that drug dealing in Lincoln city centre was becoming prolific. At times, dealers were conducting brazen deals during the day in the High Street, and there were also violent altercations between multiple members of different gangs over ‘territory’, posing a risk to the public.
"Investigations found that there were multiple OCGs operating and dealing drugs in the city centre, as well as several lone operators. We wanted to combat this prolific County Lines activity and the associated crime that drug dealing brings; there are very clear links between drug dealing and crimes such as burglary, robbery, and other violent offences.
"This is a blight on our communities, and it leads to a very real risk that children and vulnerable people will be coerced into running drugs by gangs. Make no mistake about the level of complete selfishness and disregard for the lives ruined by those supplying and dealing the drugs. Some of those sentenced led lavish lifestyles, spending thousands on designer clothes, watches or gadgets while the people they exploited to traffic drugs, or those using them, were often living lives far removed from that luxury.
"This operation was an enormous police effort, and these sentences are the culmination of thousands of operational hours, and a real determination to rise to the challenge of taking dangerous drug dealers and associates off our streets. I am incredibly proud of the dedication, sheer determination and professionalism of all our investigators who have delivered these outstanding results.
"Lincolnshire can be viewed as a soft target for unscrupulous gangs looking to extend their control. For anyone with this belief we have demonstrated that we will respond with resounding force to remove this scourge and fulfil our mandate to protect our communities.”
The ten-month operation was a Force-wide effort in partnership with the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU), including PCs, intelligence officers, detectives, armed response officers, forensics units, police staff, investigators and analysts.
It was led by Lincolnshire Police and also included officers from South Yorkshire Police, Nottinghamshire Police, Lancashire Police, West Midlands Police, and British Transport Police.
In June last year, 47 warrants were carried out at properties in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, and Lancashire resulting in the charge and conviction of 46 people for their part in the criminal conspiracies which led to the city centre dealing. In total, 45 guilty pleas were obtained and one person was found guilty after trial for money laundering.
As well as the Django and Jimmy Lines, there were also the K Line and the Fizz Line and several lone operators. Court hearings and sentencings have been taking place since December last year. Between them, they have so far received 121 years and 5 months in prison, as well as a mixture of suspended sentences and referral orders. The final two people are due to be sentenced in January.
As a result of the work by officers, three vulnerable people exploited by the groups were also identified.
It is estimated that the following was seized following the warrants:
Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of designer clothes and other assets were seized, as well as four cars. These will later be the subject of a Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) hearing;
More than £55,000 cash seized;
One viable shotgun and two viable handguns;
Half a kilo of Class A crack cocaine and hundreds of wraps of heroin.
It is also estimated that the four main OCGs sold at least two kilos of Class A drugs valued at £218,000 during the conspiracy period by running their own drugs lines. One gang member sentenced earlier this year from the K Line operated a wholesale drugs supply business in Lincoln and supplied all the major drug dealers with just under five kilos of crack and heroin in a two-and-a-half month period.
The operation was provided with funding support from the National County Lines Coordination Centre.
Full charges: Jimmy Line:
Keegan MEALOR 26/07/2002 (20) of Carfield, Skelmersdale, Lancashire pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs between 11/09/2020 and 07/06/2021 and received 6 years 11 months imprisonment on 24/11/2022.
Roberts SOKOLOVS 04/08/2020 (22) of Ennerdale, Skelmersdale Lancashire pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs between 11/09/2020 and 07/06/2021 and received 6 years 2 months imprisonment on 24/11/2022.
Ryan WILLIAMS 20/04/1989 (33) of Acregate, Digmoor, Skelmersdale, Skelmersdale, Lancashire pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs between 11/09/2020 and 07/06/2021 and received 7 years 6 months imprisonment on 24/11/2022.
Jake LIGHTFOOT 07/04/2001 (21) of Carr Street, Lincoln pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs between 11/09/2020 and 07/06/2021 and received 5 years 9 months imprisonment on 24/11/2022.
Kristers SOKOLOVS 19/09/2002 (20) of Ennerdale, Skelmersdale, Lancashire pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs between 11/09/2020 and 07/06/2021 and received 8 years and 3 months imprisonment on 19 December 2022.
A further seven people who pleaded guilty for their part in the conspiracy at earlier hearings have been sentenced to 13 years and 4 months in prison between them, some of which were suspended sentences. Some were also ordered to undertake unpaid work, be placed on curfew, and undertake drug rehabilitation.
Noman HASSAN (25) of Bentinck Road Nottingham, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and possession of a prohibited weapon (firearm) between 01/12/2020 & 25/06/2021 He was sentenced to 4 years 4 months imprisonment on 20/12/22.
Babatunde Stephen OMATADE (27) c/o HMP Lincoln, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs 01/12/2020 & 25/06/2021 and possession of an altered firearm without a firearm certificate on 21/06/2021. He was sentenced to 5 years 1 month imprisonment on 20/12/22.
Abdi ABDIRAHMAN (26) c/o HMP Lincoln pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs 01/12/2020 & 25/06/2021. He was sentenced to 3 years 8 monthsimprisonment on 20/12/22.
Amber KEELEY (22) of Honnington Approach Lincoln, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs 01/12/2020 & 25/06/2021. She was sentenced to 3 years 2 months imprisonment on 20/12/22.
Abdi NUR (22) of Fisher Street Nottingham, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs 01/12/2020 & 25/06/2021. He was sentenced to 4 years 6 months imprisonment on 20/12/22.
Another two members of the Django Line are due to be sentenced in early 2023. Alex AMMANUEL (28) c/o HMP Lincoln pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs 01/12/2020 and 25/06/2021. Kelvin TUTANI (27) of Yarborough Road Lincoln, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs 01/12/2020 & 25/06/2021 and possession of an altered firearm without a firearm certificate on 21/06/2021.
A further three people connected to this OCG previously pleaded guilty to supplying Class A drugs, and received a total of 5 years and 10 months between them, along with community orders for two of them an unpaid work for another.
Also sentenced on 20 December 2022 was Jonathan HEWITT (36) of Bridge Street, Saxilby, who was arrested and charged two counts of supplying Class A drugs for his own line as part of the same operation. He was sentenced to 2 years and 8 months imprisonment. He was not part of the OCGs.
Operation Stabilise came about as a result of information intelligence of drug dealing in Lincoln City Centre. Drug dealing isn’t just about the exchange of drugs for money and the taking of those drugs. It drives burglary, it drives robbery, and importantly, it drives violence. Not just between the drug dealers themselves but also innocent victims.
And let’s not forget, as a result of the exploitation of criminals and children, that also starts to impact on the lives of those who live within Lincolnshire.
Thousands of hours have taken place in order to bring this investigation to a conclusion.
This operation has seen the sentencing of a number of criminals who purported to live a lavish lifestyle, wearing designer clothes, watches and driving expensive cars, and that’s often the draw for those children that are brough in to this criminal world.
But let’s not forget that those criminals are now sat behind bars serving significant sentences as a result of their criminal behaviour, and as a result of the excellent work from the officers of Lincolnshire and across the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) who have come together to use all the tactics and techniques they had to hand to ensure that these people were prosecuted.
And I’ve got a message really, to those that want to come to Lincolnshire and believe that we are a soft target, and they want to deal drugs in Lincolnshire. We will continue to find you. We will continue to utilise the resources that we have to ensure that you are prosecuted, and you are ultimately sent to prison.
There is no room in the Lincoln city centre for drug dealing and the efforts of the team that have brought Operation Stabilise together should be a real message to the public that we support you and won’t allow it to happen, but also to the criminals that we will come for you.