Page last updated at 18:38 GMT, Thursday, 15 October 2009 19:38 UK

Drugs gang ringleader sentenced

Nicholas Yates
Nicholas Yates was jailed along with 17 other gang members

A 37-year-old man from Kent who was the ringleader of an international crime gang smuggling illegal drugs into the UK has been jailed for nine years.

Nicholas Yates, from Salisbury Road, Aylesford, was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court for drugs-related offences, money laundering and mortgage fraud.

Richard Wheeler, of Greenhithe, was jailed for nine years for drugs and money laundering offences.

Sixteen other gang members were also jailed for a total of 70 years.

It followed a two-year investigation involving hundreds of police officers, and raids in Kent, London and the North East.

Yates was found guilty in August of conspiring to supply 22 kilos of amphetamine sulphate worth £1m between 14 November 2007 and 11 November 2008.

'Dangerous gang'

He also pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering, totalling £127,780, and a mortgage fraud valued at £807,500.

Wheeler, 43, of Calcroft Avenue, Ingress Park, pleaded guilty to four counts of laundering the proceeds of crime.

He also admitted three counts of possession with intent to supply more than £1m worth of cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamine; the importation of 2.3 tonnes of cannabis resin worth £2.5m; and conspiracy to supply 22 kilos of amphetamine sulphate worth £1m.

Richard Wheeler
Richard Wheeler admitted money laundering and drugs-related offences

The pair were sentenced on Thursday alongside Neil Hoban, 40, of Tanwell Close, Stockton, Teesside, and Martin Lewis, 28, of Braid Crescent, Billingham, Teesside.

Hoban, who was the Teesside ringleader of the gang, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply 22 kilos of amphetamine sulphate worth £1m.

He was sentenced to five years in jail.

Lewis pleaded guilty to the same charge and was sentenced to 20 months in jail.

Five other members of the gang were previously sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court, while nine others were sentenced at Teesside Crown Court.

Head of major crime at Kent Police, Det Supt Tim Smith, said it had been "a long, complicated and multi faceted investigation".

'We've taken out the ringleaders of a very organised and dangerous crime gang whose members stopped at nothing to fuel their greed for money and the high life through the illegal drugs trade."

Police in Kent and Cleveland said it was a sophisticated enterprise

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