A seemingly respectable Wigan businesswoman has been jailed for eight years after being unmasked as a drugs baroness.
By day Leanne Duffin was running a tanning salon in Leyland. But her real fortune was being made by luring vulnerable young people into addiction then forcing them to become dealers to repay their debts.
The jailing of the Standish 31-year-old and four others, including her 66-year-old dad Brian, was the culmination of a year-long sting operation to snare the drugs kingpin.
Over the years she and her drug syndicate flooded the streets of Chorley and South Ribble with cocaine and cannabis before extending to Preston.
They used used Cosmopolitan Tanning Salon in Leyland Lane, Leyland, as a respectable front for their criminal activities. And Duffin enjoyed the high life, driving around in fancy cars and posing on Facebook.
But following an extensive, covert operation undertaken by Chorley and South Ribble police officers, she and her accomplices are now behind bars.
“Her tanning salon was essentially a front,” said Mike Adamson, chief inspector of Chorley and South Ribble police. “She was living the life of a successful businesswoman but she will be left with nothing.
“A lot of people knew what was going on, she was driving around in very expensive cars.
“She was also exploiting vulnerable young people who were using drugs, allowing them to build up debts and then forcing them to sell drugs to pay their debts off.”
Chief Insp Adamson said that Duffin and her gang had been active for quite a number of years and although the constabulary knew what was going on they needed strong evidence to put her away.
“We had taken action against them previously issuing drugs warrants but it needed an in-depth investigation into the crime group to secure their sentences,” he said.
“She had been getting to the stage where she thought she was untouchable. The group were active right across South Ribble, Chorley and Preston.”
To build up intelligence around how the syndicate operated, the police launched a covert operation to track Duffin’s movements late in 2016.
As a result she and members of the group were arrested in May 2017. Following the arrests members of the organised crime group were charged with conspiracy to supply Class A drugs (cocaine), Class B drugs (cannabis) and money-laundering.
Leanne Duffin has now been jailed for eight years, and Brian Duffin was sentenced to six years. Both lived in Greenways in Standish.
Among the other gang members, Geraldine Robinson, 51, of Chapel Lane, Coppull, was sentenced to four years, Jordan Whittle, 19, of Greenways in Standish, to three years and eight months and Kevin Hewitt, 51, of Market Street, Adlington, for 12 months behind bars. The Duffins, Robinson and Whittle all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supplying Class A and B drugs. Hewitt admitted conspiring to supply Class B substances.
Chief Insp Adamson said that the operation came to fruition largely due to undercover officers observing Duffin and other culprits.
He said: “A lot of it came from the covert work that was undertaken, having seen them dealing drugs and arresting them in possession of drugs. It was a very sophisticated organised crime group dealing drugs all over the local area.”
Now all of Duffin’s assets that she accrued have been either frozen or seized.
“I am confident that these are very substantial,” said Chief Insp Adamson, although he was not able to go into detail about Duffin’s ill-gotten gains as they are subject to a separate Proceeds of Crime Act court hearing.
In a warning shot to drug dealers, Chief Insp Adamson added: “We are watching you, we will take action. We have still got further investigations into drug dealing which we know is taking place.
“We are using covert tactics working across Chorley and South Ribble focusing on organised crime. If you know people are dealing drugs near you let us know so we can give them a friendly early morning visit.”