A gang of Leeds-based criminals who ran a nationwide drug dealing operation have been jailed for a total of more than 50 years.
Serious Organised Crime Unit police officers “dismantled” the group and helped bring them to justice after building up evidence through a lengthy and painstaking investigation.
Leon Dhers was shown to be the head of the group with Fidel Morton controlling the storage and distribution of drugs on his behalf.
On March 24 last year, police stopped an Audi A3 on the M62 near Manchester.
A black plastic bag of white powder was recovered along with a small amount of cannabis.
Ashley Graham, who was a passenger in the car, was arrested along with the 30-year-old woman driver.
He made no comment when interviewed by officers.
The woman told officers that Graham was a friend and she had picked him up from Nottingham bus station to go shopping in Leeds and Manchester.
She had taken Graham to meet a friend in Harehills before driving to Manchester to go shopping.
A forensic examination of the white powder showed it to be 1.02kg of Phenacetin, which is not a controlled drug but is used in the adulteration of cocaine and in the process of making crack cocaine.
Cash seized from Graham’s address was shown to be contaminated with heroin. A fingerprint recovered from the black bag was found to belong to Anthony Haynes, from Leeds.
Haynes was arrested and interviewed on July 17 last year and denied being the person who gave the bag to Graham in Harehills. He was unable to explain how his fingerprint came to be on it.
On May 28 last year, officers from the Serious Organised Crime Unit conducted a surveillance operation in Leeds and Bradford. A Seat Leon was observed stopping on Mexborough Road, Chapeltown, and a woman, known to be Rachelle Richards, was seen to lean into the car and walk away with a black drawstring bag.
The same car was seen later in Musgrave Street, Bradford, meeting an Audi A3 before both cars drove off together. The Seat was then stopped by police on Stanningley bypass.
The driver Luke Osler was arrested and a search of the vehicle uncovered two circular packages sealed in plastic.
Shortly after Osler’s arrest, officers executed a search warrant at Rachelle Richards’ address in Shafton View, Leeds. Richards was arrested and the house was searched. A black drawstring bag containing two thick discs was recovered along with a carrier bag containing individual bags of powder, a clutch bag containing a brown substance, a grey bin containing 12 bags of brown powder, and a .320 calibre Belgian pocket revolver and 13 rounds of ammunition. A small amount of cannabis and two mobile phones were also recovered.
That evening officers went to an address in Shadwell Lane and arrested Thomas Skelhorn. A small amount of cannabis and mobile phones were recovered.
When Osler was interviewed he said he had built up a cannabis debt and had been directed to various locations in Leeds and Bradford to drop off packages, including the one to Richards.
Richards told officers an unnamed friend had given her a phone and asked her to look after some cutting agent, commonly known as ‘bash’. She denied having any knowledge of the gun, bullets or heroin found in the clutch bag.
She said she had been asked to collect the bag from Mexborough Road as a favour and thought it was a legal substance. She denied knowing Osler or Skelhorn and refused to name the friend.
Skelhorn made no comment throughout his police interview.
A forensic examination of the two packages from Osler’s car revealed they contained 988g and 994g of heroin at 66 per cent purity.
The two packages from Shafton View were found to be 979g and 991g of heroin at 67 per cent purity. The clutch bag contained 8.83g of heroin of nine per cent purity.
The 12 packages in the grey bin were found to be 11.8kg of caffeine and paracetamol and the carrier bag contained 5.81kg of caffeine and paracetamol.
Officers conducted further surveillance in Leeds on July 3 last year and observed a man, now known to the Mizanur Rahman, getting off a coach from Newcastle at Leeds bus station.
He took a taxi to Hillcrest Avenue, Chapeltown, and met a Mercedes and collected a bag. He was arrested at Leeds bus station and the bag recovered.
He refused to be interviewed. A forensic examination of the bag showed a sealed plastic tub containing a foil package of 410g of skunk cannabis.
The Mercedes was found to have been hired by Richard Morton.
The main offenders were charged with conspiracy to supply heroin and cocaine between February 25 and July 2 last year. Richards and Fidel Morton were also charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition. Leon Dhers, aged 35, of Commercial Street, Morley, was jailed for eight years and one month; Fidel Morton, aged 31, Lovell Park Mews, Leeds, was sentenced to 12 years and one month; Ashley Donovan Graham, aged 34, of Roberts Street, Ilkeston, Derbyshire received six years; Anthony Carl Haynes, aged 25, of Gipton Square, Leeds, was jailed for four years, six months; Luke Osler, aged 28, of Rookwood Mount, Leeds was given four years; Rachelle Richards, aged 25, of Shafton View, Leeds, received three years, seven months; Anthony Querishi, aged 28, of Wickham Avenue, Boston Spa was sentenced to four years; Mizahur Rahman, aged 24, of Lincoln Towers, Leeds, received 17 months; Richard Morton, aged 47, of Rookwood Hill, Leeds, was sentenced to nine months, suspended for two year with an unpaid work requirement; Thomas Skelhorn, aged 28, of Shadwell Lane, Leeds was jailed for a total of 16 years – eight years for this investigation and a further eight years for a separate investigation by Leeds District Serious Organised Crime Unit. Rahman Ali, aged 36, of Queensfield Drive, Bradford, is due to be sentenced at a later date. Thomas Skelhorn was also jailed alongside two other men for his part in a £400,000 drugs conspiracy investigated by officers from Leeds District Serious Organised Crime Unit. Between October 2013 and April 2014, the group were involved in the supply of heroin and crack cocaine throughout the Leeds area through a ‘ring and bring’ dealing network known to addicts as the “Skelly line”. Enquiries showed Thomas Skelhorn to be the head of the network. Large amounts of Class A drugs and cash were seized during the operation along with evidence linking the defendants to their illicit trade. Daniel Carlton, aged 24, Brownhill Crescent, Leeds, was jailed for seven years and Tyrone Henry, aged 25, of Brookfield Avenue, Leeds, was sentenced to two years in prison. Amy Skelhorn, aged 30, of Coupland Road, Garforth, was found guilty of money laundering and was sentenced to two years, suspended for two years, and 150 hours community service. Gary McClelland, aged 21, of St Hilda’s Mount, Leeds, was sentenced to two years, suspended for two years, with 250 hours community service, and Connor Walker, aged 20, of Bexley Place, Leeds, was sentenced to two years, suspended for two years, and 250 hours community service.