Drug ring pair on trial

TWO Wigan men have gone on trial accused of involvement in one of the borough’s biggest ever drug rings.

Lee Harris and John Rasburn are among five in the dock charged with conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin respectively.

Two other locals – Keith Prescott and Dean Jones – are already awaiting sentence after admitting their part in the racket from which police seized £740,000 worth of class A illegal substances.

In all, officers arrested 10 men in a series of raids last year, five of whom are this week appearing before a judge and jury at Liverpool Crown Court.

Prosecuting, Mr Gary Woodall said they had been observed by police on various occasions between March and August last year both in the North West and London.

“The drug seizures corresponded with significant telephone contact between those in possession of the drugs and others, including some of the defendants.

“Those telephone contacts indicate that these defendants, although not caught red-handed with the drugs, were directly involved with and equally responsible for those drugs.

“It is the prosecution case that these defendants activities observed by the police coupled with analysis of the call data of the telephones used by them at the relevant time establishes each defendants participation in the conspiracy to supple Class A drugs.”

Facing trial are 39-year-old Harris of Warrington Road, Ince, Daniel Tang, 34, of Legh Street, Warrington, Kurt Blondell, 30, of Mace Street, London, and Benson Okoli, 34, of Kelvin Road, North London, who all deny conspiracy to supply cocaine.

Tang and 37-year-old Rasburn, of no fixed address, both deny conspiracy to supply heroin. Rasburn, and others not in the dock – including 50-year-old Prescott of Warrington Road, Ince – have admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine.

Jones, 30, of Eastgarth, Platt Bridge, and two others have pleaded guilty to the heroin conspiracy.

Mr Woodall told the jury: “The main feature is the involvement of the men based in the Wigan area, particularly Tang and Rasburn and Jones, who all appear in both charges.

“The two separate allegations arise out of their involvement with large quantities of cocaine and heroin in and around the North West.

“The prosecution say Tang and Rasburn were the heads of an organised criminal group operating in the Wigan area. They arranged the obtaining of and onward supply of large quantities of Class A drugs.”

Jones is one of their trusted lieutenants, he claimed.

“Okoli and Blondell were based in London. It is the prosecution case that they provided those based in Wigan with large quantities of cocaine,” added Mr Woodall. Harris and Prescott were employed by those based in the Wigan area as couriers.

Mr Woodall said: “They travelled from the North West to London to take cash to pay those in London before returning with the cocaine.

“Each of them played different roles in these conspiracies at different stages but each was involved in a criminal agreement.

“Tang, Rasburn, Jones and two other men were involved with the consignment of heroin ultimately seized by police on April 10. That did not involve those based in London but involved activities around Warrington for two days in April,” alleged Mr Woodall.

The trial expected to last for three weeks.