Drug gangs behind major cocaine and M-CAT racket locked up for total of 132 years

Members of five organised crime groups behind a major drugs supply racket have been locked up for a total of 132 years in prison.

Tens of thousands of pounds worth of illegal drugs were found by police after exchanges made by group members.

Police today welcomed the sentences saying the group members had ‘played a significant role in fuelling drug crime’ in the Midlands.

In total, 23 group members, based in areas including Cannock, Stafford and Walsall, pleaded guilty in earlier hearings to conspiracy to supply either class A or class B drugs.

The majority of defendants were sentenced at Stafford Crown Court this week.

The court heard that cocaine and M-CAT, which is a class B synthetic stimulant drug, was being transported through the group’s links in the West Midlands, Swindon and Derbyshire.

Staffordshire Police’s Major and Organised Crime department led the operation to bring them to justice.

It investigated the organised crime group based in Cannock and led by John Appleton and Michael O’ Mahoney.

Appleton and O’Mahoney were each jailed for 14 years yesterday for leading the complex cocaine and mephedrone supply ring.

Detectives tracked the movements of Appleton and O’ Mahoney after their release from prison in 2013, after they formed a tight-knit Cannock group with Jason Bayley, Carol Pope, Derek Hodgkiss and Russell Degg.

Bayley and Pope were the trusted couriers of drugs and money, said Staffordshire Police, while Hodgkiss acted as Pope’s driver.

The force said Degg provided a safe-house for storage in Repton Close, Cannock, as the group initially supplied MCAT and cocaine to another group in Swindon, Wiltshire.

Detectives tracked the group’s activity, through phone analysis and vehicle movements along the M6 and M5.

Arrests were made on February 28, 2015, when a quantity of cocaine and two kilos of MCAT were supplied to Gary and Keith Peapell near to junction 11A of the M5 in Gloucestershire.

The rural area of Crickley Hill Country Park became a significant meeting place for members of the two crime groups, said investigating officers.

Adam Farmer, David Perkins and Lee Higgins were part of a group in Redditch which was supplied with multiple quantities of MCAT by the Cannock group.

On March 4, 2015, following an exchange with Higgins, Carol Pope was stopped in a car in Cannock and £35,000 was discovered in the foot-well.

Fingerprints were discovered on a cash bag which linked the Redditch and Swindon groups, Staffordshire Police said.

Jason Bayley was due to meet Lewis Chambers on March 16, 2015, in a deal brokered by Jamie Sleigh on behalf of the Cannock and West Midlands crime groups.

The meeting was due to be held at the Chase Gate pub, in Wolverhampton Road, Cannock, when he was intercepted and arrested by officers with 4kg of MCAT in a bag.

The force say the Cannock group also formed links with Shane Andrews and the Stafford group.

Darren Pearson, who later acted as a warehouseman for the Cannock group following earlier enforcement, then went on to supply Andrews with half a kilo of cocaine.

The crime group were proven to have well-established links with Gareth Pincombe, head of the Derbyshire crime group.

Appleton and O’Mahoney ran out of runners and dealers as detectives closed in on the group.

He asked his son, Bret Appleton, to collect MCAT, but Bret was arrested on his return from Swadlincote with 3kg of MCAT.

Inspector Pete Cooke, of Staffordshire Police’s Major and Organised Crime team, said: “These sentences reflect the commitment and hard work of officers. We’re delighted to see offenders who have preyed on the vulnerable in our communities behind bars for a considerable period of time.

“All of them played a significant role in fuelling drug crime in south Staffordshire and elsewhere across the Midlands and South West and their sentences are very much welcomed.

“Staffordshire Police is committed to tackling drug crime in our communities and our work will continue under Operation Nemesis.”

Full list of defendants and sentences

John Appleton, aged 46, of Locketts Court, Cannock, sentenced to 14 years
Michael O’ Mahoney, aged 43, of Avenue Road, Cannock, sentenced to 14 years
Gary Peapell, aged 38, of Swindon, sentenced to 8 years 8 months
Adam Farmer, aged 35, of Kineton Close, Redditch, sentenced to 8 years 6 months
Shane Andrews, aged 35, of John Donne Street, Stafford, sentenced to 8 years
Gareth Pincombe, aged 38, of Repton Road, Swadlincote, sentenced to 8 years 2 months
Jason Bayley, aged 45, of Leamington Close, Cannock, sentenced to 8 years
Carol Pope, aged 44, of Glover Street, Cannock, sentenced to 7 years 2 months
Darren Pearson, aged 46, of Moss Street, Cannock, sentenced to 7 years 2 months
Jamie Wilson, aged 38, of Sidney Avenue, Stafford, sentenced to 6 years 9 months
Keith Peapell, aged 62, Swindon, sentenced to 6 years
Russell Degg, aged 40, of Repton Close, Cannock, sentenced to 6 years
Scott Kenny, aged 32, of Mosedale, Rugby, sentenced to 5 years 4 months
Lewis Chambers, aged 26, of Hillary Street, Walsall, sentenced to 4 years
Lucy Butler, aged 35, of Sanderling Close, Featherstone, sentenced to 4 years
Richard Menzies, aged 33, of Meadow View Road, Swadlincote, sentenced to 3 years 7 months
Jamie Sleigh, aged 37, of St John’s Road, Cannock, sentenced to 3 years 7 months
David Perkins, aged 31, of Hindlip Close, Redditch, sentenced to 3 years 4 months
Bret Appleton, aged 25, of Locketts Court, Cannock, sentenced to 20 months
Derek Hodgkiss, aged 56, of St John’s Road, Cannock, received a 17 month suspended sentence
Lee Higgins, aged 32, of Fownhope Close, Redditch, received an 11-month suspended sentence.
Matthew Parsons, aged 34, of Lower Birches Way, Rugeley, was sentenced to a total of 3 years 6 months for class A and class B supply on December 13, 2016.
Kyle Wilson, 19, of Merrivale Road, Stafford, pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of class B drugs and was sentenced to 14 months’ detention in a youth offenders’ institution on April 7, 2017.
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