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Nottinghamshire drugs gang who exploited children jailed for 36 years

A gang leader carried on running a drug-dealing enterprise from inside prison after manipulating a string of people to do his bidding.

Shekiel Sands led an organised crime group that sold copious amounts of heroin and crack cocaine from Nottinghamshire to other parts of the country.

A key part of the group’s operation involved the deliberate exploitation of children and vulnerable people to help them move the drugs to different areas.

Sands and his gang were ultimately snared by officers following a coordinated investigation that saw several police forces and departments work together to shut the supply network down.

The drug dealer ran the operation for several years, including between January 2019 and April 2020, when he carried on pulling the strings from inside prison.

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Sands, 27, used around 30 hidden burner phones with longstanding county lines numbers to set up drug deals across Derbyshire and Oxfordshire and to communicate with his gang.

He smuggled the phones in after corrupting prison agency worker Marc Hayes, while he persuaded at least four women he was in a relationship with to carry out criminal meetings on his behalf.

The women also moved around £51,000 raised from the criminal enterprise through their own bank accounts during this period.

Sands was released from prison on licence in April 2020 and was made to wear an electronic tag.

However, this didn’t stop him and associate Bright Norman from re-establishing a ‘deal line’ number straight away that sent out bulk messages nationwide advertising drugs for sale.

After the gang chose to focus on selling heroin and crack cocaine in Banbury, Oxfordshire, Norman and associate Thierry Flemmings trafficked a number of children and vulnerable adults across county lines from Nottingham to help them sell the Class A drugs.

The organised crime group enticed as many as 11 vulnerable people into becoming runners for them between then and September 2020, after the deal line helped them establish the supply network in the area.

Sands was recalled to prison for breaching the terms of his licence in June 2020 and passed control of the deal line over to Norman, but a raid of the 27-year-old’s home a month later then led to the discovery of the phone and his arrest too.

A search of a Banbury property in late July 2020 then resulted in 300 wraps of heroin and cocaine being seized by police, with the gang’s operation falling apart shortly after that.

Charges were brought against around 20 people involved in the enterprise, following a complex investigation that saw Nottinghamshire Police work in partnership with East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU), Derbyshire Constabulary, Thames Valley Police, and Nottinghamshire County Council.

The investigation represented the first of its kind for Nottinghamshire Police, with the force helping secure convictions for modern slavery offences as part of a county lines operation.

This work led to Sands and his associates being handed a combined 36 years of prison time, with sentencing taking place throughout this week.

EMSOU Detective Inspector Mark Adas said: “Sands wielded a great amount of power and influence – even from prison – to create a criminal sphere responsible for inflicting serious damage to the communities in which it operated.

“In a bid to keep their hands clean and extend the illicit business outside of the East Midlands, Norman and Flemmings exploited a number of individuals to run drugs and cash across county borders.

“These were mostly vulnerable, socially isolated children looking to make a bit of money and gain a sense of belonging, but who, instead, found only threats, violence and fear.

“This was a complex and extensive investigation that was only successful thanks to the coordinated approach of officers from EMSOU, Nottinghamshire Police and other forces who all worked together to catch those responsible for these heinous crimes.”

Detective Inspector Ian Smith, of Nottinghamshire Police, added: “This case actually represented the first of its kind for Nottinghamshire Police in that we were able to work with partners to secure convictions for modern slavery offences as part of a county lines operation, so naturally we’re extremely proud to have been part of this investigation.

“Assistance provided by Nottinghamshire social care staff also played a pivotal role in identifying the children and vulnerable adults trafficked as part of this operation and helped safeguard these victims from more harm.

“I am pleased that in this case we were able to not only protect a number of a vulnerable young people, but also end a destructive cycle of harm by securing lengthy jail terms for the main perpetrators.”

The bulk of the sentencing took place earlier today (15 December) at Nottingham Crown Court, after Sands and each of the other defendants pleaded guilty to the charges against them.

  • Sands, of HMP Oakwood, Staffordshire, was jailed for 11 years and six months for conspiring to supply Class A drugs and conspiring to bring a phone and synthetic cannabis into a prison
  • Bright Norman, of no fixed address, was jailed for three years and four months for conspiring to supply Class A drugs and trafficking another for the purposes of exploitation
  • Thierry Flemmings, 24, of Eastglade Road, Bestwood, was jailed for six years for conspiring to supply Class A drugs and trafficking another for the purposes of exploitation
  • Sophie Freeley, 20, of School Lane, Beeston, was jailed for two years and four months, plus an additional two weeks, for conspiring to supply Class A drugs
  • Cameron Johnson, 25, of HMP Elmley, Kent, was jailed for two years and four months for conspiring to supply Class A drugs
  • Marc Hayes, 25, of Leafield, Retford, was jailed for two years and eight months for conspiring to bring a phone and synthetic cannabis into a prison
  • Kevon Ferrier, 33, of Minver Crescent, Aspley, was handed a two year sentence suspended for 18 months for conspiring to supply Class A drugs. He will also be required to complete 250 hours of unpaid work
  • Jai Chaddha, 18, of Ladbrooke Crescent, Basford, was handed a two year sentence, suspended for 18 months for conspiring to supply Class A drugs
  • Kian Shread, 20, of Cavendish Street, Arnold, was given a two year community order for conspiring to supply Class A drugs. He will also be required to complete 20 rehabilitation requirement days
  • Shadae Romeo, 25, of Lyndhurst Road, Reading, was given a three year community order, with requirements to complete 40 rehabilitation days, for conspiring to bring a phone and synthetic cannabis into a prison. She also pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply a Class A drug, dangerous driving and driving while disqualified
  • Hannah Lawrence, 29, of Wood Leys, Burgass Road, Carlton, was handed a 15 month sentence suspended for 18 months, plus 20 rehabilitation requirement days, for money laundering
  • Bernadine Dyer, 47, of The Oval, Sutton-in-Ashfield, was handed an 11 month sentence suspended for 18 months for money laundering
  • Devon Robb, 28, of Foxglove Avenue, Thurnby, Leicester, was handed a five month sentence suspended for 18 months, plus 25 rehabilitation days, for money laundering
  • Rebecca Williams, 29, of Grange Street, Derby, was handed a one year community order, plus 15 rehabilitation days, for money laundering

Johan Martin, 27, and Leshae Traynor appeared before the same court on Monday (12 December), having pleaded guilty to conspiring to supply Class A drugs.

Martin, of Incher Mews, Carlton, and Traynor, of Brindley Road, Bilborough, were both jailed for three years and four months.

Cherice Fuller, 30, of HMP Foston Hall, Derbyshire, was also jailed for 20 months at an earlier hearing in June 2022, having pleaded guilty to the same charge.

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