Five men have been sentenced as part of a crackdown targeting the supply of drugs across Northumberland and Newcastle.
Those at the heart of the operation received combined sentences totalling more than 11 years – after admitting conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.
The sentences come after Northumbria Police – acting on information supplied by members of the public – launched an investigation into suspected drug dealing.
During the course of the investigation, multiple searches were carried out which resulted in the seizure of drugs, weapons and in excess of £61,000 in cash and other assets.
As a result five men have now been convicted and sentenced for a number of drugs offences.
The five men were sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court on Friday (January 25).
Stephen Brown, 35, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to a total of six years and nine months in prison after admitting conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and possessing criminal property.
Malcolm Stappard, 46, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to four years and six months in prison after admitting conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs.
The three other men received lesser sentences due to their smaller roles in the operation.
Matthew Flaherty, 34, of Rosalind Street, Ashington, received a 12 month conditional discharge after admitting possessing a controlled Class A drug.
Wayne Johnson, 35, of Somerset Close, Ashington, received a 12 month community order after admitting possession with intent to supply Class A drugs.
Phillip West, 37, of Wellwood Gardens, Morpeth, was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for 24 months after admitting possession with intent to supply Class A drugs.
A sixth man, Richard Blair, aged 41, of Petherton Court, Newcastle, was also convicted of possessing criminal property but awaits sentencing next month.
Superintendent Craig Metcalfe welcomed the sentences and says a dangerous gang who prayed on the vulnerable and posed a threat to communities has now been brought to justice.
He said: “We set up a dedicated team in response to community concerns and as a direct result we have been able to bring these five men to justice.
“I hope this sends out a clear and robust message – our officers are dedicated and persistent and we will continue to actively pursue offenders who look to take advantage of vulnerable victims.
“Heads of organised gangs like this often believe they are above the law and won’t suffer the consequences of their criminal activity - the region is safer now their organisation has been disrupted.”
The activity to target such offending will continue under the banner of Operation Sentinel.
This has seen Northumbria working alongside Durham, Cleveland and the North East Regional Specialist Operations Unit (NERSOU) to tackle serious and organised crime.
Anyone who has information about drug dealing is encouraged to contact police on 101, report it online at www.northumbria.police.uk, or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.