Sedgebrook man played a part in gang’s major cocaine and cigarettes smuggling operation

Thomas Willett.
Thomas Willett.

Six members of a gang have been sentenced for offences relating to smuggling around £780,000 worth of cocaine as well as attempting to smuggle 20,000 sleeves of cigarettes to avoid duty estimated at £844,000.

Thomas Willett, 43, of Nottingham Road, Sedgebrook, Grantham, was sentenced to four years and two months imprisonment after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to evade the duty chargeable on excise goods, namely cigarettes.

He was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court along with six other men. They were:

* Percy Draper Smith, 38, of Chertsey Lane, Staines, sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to import cocaine (10 years), one count of conspiracy to import amphetamine sulphate (six years and six months) and one count of conspiracy to evade the duty chargeable on excise goods, namely cigarettes (two years and four months) to run concurrently.

* Adam Vhora, 32, of Stamford Street, Awsworth, Nottinghamshire, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment after being found guilty of one count of importation of cocaine (12 years). He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to import amphetamine sulphate (six years) to run concurrently.

* Nathan Lee, 55, of Court Tree Drive, Eastchurch, Kent, was sentenced to two years and four months imprisonment after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to evade the duty chargeable on excise goods, namely cigarettes.

* Kevin Machin, 37, of Hilcot Drive, Astley, Nottinghamshire, was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to import amphetamine sulphate.

* Ian Oldham, 37, of Brookfield Road, Arnold, Nottinghamshire, was sentenced to three years imprisonment after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to import amphetamine sulphate.

Investigating officer, Detective Inspector Mark Chapman, from the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit, said: “Our focus remains at identifying criminality and ensuring our communities across the South East are protected from the most serious crime.

“This was an intelligence led investigation into the importation of controlled drugs, class A and class B, as well as counterfeit cigarettes from the continent.

“This gang operated throughout the UK and was arrested attempting to smuggle cocaine with the street value of around £780,000 which would have been destined for the streets of South East of England.

“They also attempted to avoid duty of around £844,000 by smuggling in over 20,000 sleeves of cigarettes destined for the North West of England.

“Throughout the investigation, we worked closely with HMRC, the UK Border Force and the National Crime Agency.

“We are pleased with the sentences today, which show criminals that we will protect our communities across the South East Region by targeting offenders and ensuring they are stopped from operating.”

All the offences took place between October 2011 and April 2013.