Wigan’s streets are a safer place after the smashing of two major local drug rings.
In the last two weeks no fewer than 14 dealers, smugglers and producers of cocaine have been sent to a prison for a total of 123 years.
Both operations against them took around 18 months to complete, involving thousands of police staff hours including surveillance and forensic examination and at the conclusion of the trials it has been estimated that around £5.5m of the class A drug, most of which was coming from South America, had been stopped from getting onto the streets of the borough.
Operation Burnbank started by focusing on a gang in Worsley Mesnes but then suddenly developed an international element when a consignment of Mexican cocaine concealed in a computer hard drive being transported from Germany to Denmark was intercepted.
Tracing back to the sender, investigators found another identical package was destined for Wigan, namely a valeting company run by ringleader Paul Law.
Following long surveillance by Wigan’s Organised Crime Investigation Team, numerous raids were carried out across the town with large amounts of cash, drugs and equipment associated with cocaine production seized.
Law and his 10 co-conspirators were jailed for a total of 77 years at Liverpool Crown Court.
Just days later another five Wigan men were imprisoned for their part in a £5m cocaine smuggling and production operation.
At the conclusion of Operation Sorrento, Thomas Gore, Anthony Jenkinson, Martin Fish, Simon Perks and Christopher Thompson were sentenced to a total of 46 years in prison at Liverpool Crown Court last week for conspiracy to produce cocaine.
Gore and Jenkinson operated from an industrial unit in Ashton where cocaine was pressed and officers also found a makeshift lab inside a home on Prescott Lane, Kitt Green, where Fish was living and a hazardous chemical process was being used to filter coffee granules which had been infused with high purity cocaine after being transported from Columbia.
Sgt Simon Monks from Wigan’s Organised Crime Team which investigated both cases said: “The streets of Wigan are a safer place whne you are stopping cocaine in these amounts getting there.
“As the judge said at the end of the Operation Sorrento case, he sees hundreds of cocaine users and dealers in front of him every year.
“It’s a nasty drug that causes mass misery and harm including to innocent people.
“Cocaine is sometimes called a ‘party drug’ but it is anything but.
“It causes serious damage to your health, it has people turning to other crimes to fuel it and it breaks up families, including when the dealers and users are locked up.
“It is dangerous enough on its own but when you think of the dangerous chemicals like hydrochloric acid the Sorrento offenders were using for processing and adulteration you can imagine the damage it does to the human body when that goes up your nose.
“The two operations both lasted 18 months - during which time several other operations were being conducted - and involved thousands of man hours.”