A drugs gang has been jailed for 78 years after 15 defendants were convicted for their part in selling cocaine and cannabis in Worthing.
When police arrested the men, officers seized about 6kg of cocaine, with an estimated street value of up to £600,000, as well as 868 grams of cannabis and almost £160,000 cash.
Most of the men were sentenced at Brighton Crown Court last week by Judge Stephen Mooney while another was jailed two days ago (Wednesday 17 January) at Lewes Crown Court.
So far 14 of the men have been sentenced after what Sussex Police described as a painstaking investigation.
The force said: “Detectives have successfully dismantled a major drugs gang, who have been sentenced to 78 years’ imprisonment.
“Fifteen defendants have so far been convicted of their involvement in the mass distribution and supply of class A and B substances in the Worthing area between March 2020 and June 2021.
“During this time, officers identified two local ‘organised crime groups’ (OCGs) who were purchasing large quantities of cocaine and cannabis from other OCGs in London, Luton and elsewhere and selling them on for profit locally.
“Through painstaking investigations and working with partners, police were able to identify a number of suspects.
“Among them was Ergest Tarja, who used an EncroChat phone to send and receive encrypted calls and messages in a bid to cover his tracks.
“But experts at the French Police were able to uncover the messages which showed his involvement in the distribution of multiple kilograms of cocaine.
“A number of warrants and stop checks were executed across the county, leading to the seizure of around 6kg of cocaine and cannabis with a wholesale value of £201,000 to £240,000 and street value of £480,000 to £600,000, 868g of cannabis and around £157,795 cash. Multiple arrests were also made.”
At Brighton Crown Court last week, Judge Mooney said: “The sale of class A drugs is a blight on our society. The addiction to cocaine and indeed other drugs ruins the lives of those addicted, a fact about which many of you are all too aware.
“It feeds the need to commit crime and leads to the commission of offences by those desperate to feed their addiction. It destroys families and it on occasion takes the lives of those who have succumbed to it.
“On occasion, addicts appear before the court because desperation has caused them to fund their habit through the sale of class A drugs.
“None of you fall into that category. In this case some of you were addicts yourselves but you were not motivated by desperation to sell small amounts, rather you were lured by the profit to be made from the sale of drugs and were indifferent to the misery that sale of drugs would inevitably cause and were motivated purely and simply by greed.
“The drugs supplied were of high purity and the fact that they were supplied within the context of an agreement are global aggravating features because the supply of drugs was not a spontaneous act but was the result of a considered agreement to do so.
“You all played varying roles and had varying degrees of involvement but all of you were ultimately bare responsibility for the harm that the drugs which you provided caused and you must now be punished for that.”
Judge Mooney jailed Oliver Mazirel, 35, of Ardingly Drive, Goring, for 14 years for conspiring to supply cocaine, being concerned supplying cannabis, having cannabis with intent to supply and acquiring or having criminal property.
Mazirel was found guilty by a jury and the judge described him as “a professional criminal with an appalling record for offences including robbery and selling MDMA (ecstasy)”.
The judge added: “While on bail for these offences you were involved in the supply of a significant quantity of cannabis.
“This involved the supply of over 40kg of cannabis while on bail for the supply of significant quantities of cocaine.”
Sussex Police said: “While on court bail for the conspiracy, he was arrested by the West Sussex Community Investigations Team having been found in possession of 10kg of cannabis.”
Another defendant who was convicted by a jury was Steven Bennett, 43, of South Street, Lancing. He was jailed for two years and three months. Bennett was a man of previously good character who was found guilty of conspiring to supply cocaine.
Two days ago (Wednesday 17 January), at Lewes Crown Court, Judge Mooney jailed Dean Mazirel, 39, of South Street, Tarring.
He was sentenced to four years and three months in prison after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to conspiring to supply cocaine.
Others jailed at Brighton Crown Court on Thursday 11 January were
Jamie Richardson, 47, of Shetland Court, Worthing. He was jailed for eight years for conspiring to supply cocaine as one of the principal organisers who played a leading role in the conspiracy.
Judge Mooney told Richardson: “Your offending had its origin in your addiction to cocaine. That has blighted your life and the lives of those close to you. You have damaged your mental health.
“You are all too aware of how addiction ruins lives and your sale of drugs has contributed to the misery of others. You nonetheless chose to visit that misery on others.
“I do acknowledge that you have finally begun to address your addiction and I have read impressive references that attest to your desire to change. I treat these as a mitigating feature.”
Ergest Tarja, 31, of no fixed address. He is already serving a four-year prison sentence and was jailed for a further six years and six months for conspiring to supply cocaine and being concerned in the supply of cocaine, using the EncroChat phone, making 10 years and six months in total.
Judge Mooney told him: “You are an Albanian national who has been illegally in this country for some years.
“You have used false identities to allow you to remain undetected and, in my judgment, to facilitate substantial dealing in drugs and to retain the proceeds.
“You had a complete understanding of the nature of the operation because you ran it (organising) the buying and selling of drugs on a commercial scale.
“You had substantial links others in the chain who could access significant quantities of cocaine and had close links to the original source and had an expectation of substantial financial advantage.”
Daniel Bashvogli, 40, of Crescent Road, Worthing. He was jailed for six years and three months for conspiring to supply cocaine, being concerned in the supply of cannabis and acquiring or having criminal property. The judge said that he was a man of previously good character.
Daron Wood, 55, of Heene Road, Worthing. He was jailed for four years and six months for conspiring to supply cocaine.
Luke Stears, 34, of Canon Place, Southampton. He was jailed for four years for conspiring to supply cocaine.
Zac Danks, 26, of Harbolets Road, West Chiltington. He was jailed for nine months for conspiring to supply cocaine in addition to five years and three months that he is already serving.
Daniel Taylor, 46, of Pavilion Close, Thakeham. He was jailed for three years and nine months for conspiring to supply cocaine and having cocaine and cannabis with intent to supply.
Carmine Melisi, 60, a grandfather, of no fixed address. He was jailed for three years and one month for conspiring to supply cocaine, acquiring or having criminal property and having an offensive weapon in public.
Warren Bines, 43, of De Paul Way, Brentwood, Essex. He was jailed for two years and seven months for conspiring to supply cocaine and acquiring or having criminal property. He was described as vulnerable and unsophisticated.
They were all given credit for entering early guilty pleas.
Two other members of the same gang, both Albanians, were sentenced previously. Forty-year-old Ilirian Allajbeu, also known as Lilo Dakampo, of St Mary’s Drive, East Preston, was jailed for eight years and Aleksis Branko, 42, of West Parade, Worthing, was jailed for 10 months.
The 15th defendant, Terrence White, 33, of Mill Road, Worthing, has already pleaded guilty to conspiring to supply cocaine. He is due to be sentenced on Thursday 21 March.
Detective Constable Jon Freeman, of the Serious Organised Crime Unit, said: “We will continue to target individuals involved in the production, distribution and supply of illegal drugs in Sussex – and this often leads to significant sentences.
“Typically, individuals involved in street supply are replaced in their organised crime group while those above them evade detection, enabling illegal activities to continue until we are able to secure the evidence for further convictions.
“On this occasion, however, we have completely dismantled an organised crime group from the top to the bottom of the chain which includes a number of people entrenched in the Worthing community for a number of years.
“Illegal drugs cause misery to those that become addicted to them and to their families, friends and the wider communities.
“These defendants were not simply dealing drugs to feed their own addiction. They had made the decision to become involved in the supply of large quantities of harmful drugs to make money for themselves at the expense of others.
“This is a massive result for Sussex Police and all the teams involved, including the Serious Organised Crime Unit, the Community Investigations Team, the Economic Crime Unit, the Specialist Enforcement Unit, the Tactical Enforcement Unit, the Roads Policing Unit, the Tactical Firearms Unit and numerous neighbourhood policing teams.”