Sunday 21 April 2024
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Two sentenced after police close down Nottingham – Loughborough County Lines operation

Drug suppliers who exploited young boys to sell Class A drugs have been locked up after a specialist police team shut down a County Lines operation.

County Lines is a term used to describe urban gangs supplying drugs to other parts of the UK using dedicated mobile phone lines.

The gangs frequently exploit children or vulnerable adults to move and store drugs. The ‘County Line’ is the mobile phone line used to take orders of drugs.

Makki Raja, aged 18, was in control of a County Line which supplied Class A drugs between Nottingham and Loughborough.

It involved the trafficking of two young boys from the Nottingham area into Loughborough, Leicestershire, to peddle the drugs to users in the area as part of the County Line.

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Raja, from Nottingham, recruited the boys to sell heroin and crack cocaine from an address in Victoria Street, Loughborough.

Screenshot 2024 02 14 at 12.16.27

He booked taxis to take the boys to Loughborough and ran the enterprise, assisted by others he was in regular phone contact with.

Raja paid the boys £200 a day to work as part of the County Line by delivering Class A drugs to known users in the Loughborough area whom he was sending mass marketing messages from his phone, advertising the supply of drugs.

Raja was assisted in his drug enterprise by 33-year-old David Bellis, who was linked to the offending after detectives examined the phone and video evidence as part of their extensive investigation.

Bellis, of Loughborough, helped the boys in dealing drugs from the Victoria Street address – which became the hub of the County Line enterprise and where he would routinely stay – as well as helping them delivering drugs to users in the town.

His involvement included showing one of the recruited boys places where they could deal drugs from in Loughborough.

A 17-year-old boy, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was also involved in the County Line. Although it was deemed he acted on the direction of others and had a more limited role in the enterprise, he was involved in the potential recruitment of other boys.

Raja, Bellis, and the 17-year-old appeared at Nottingham Crown Court for sentencing on Monday (12 February 2024) following a complex police investigation which began back in 2022.

Raja pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply a Class A controlled drug, between 1 December 2022 and 28 February 2023, and facilitating the travel of a young person with a view to exploitation.

Raja also admitted being concerned in the supply of cannabis between the same dates.

He was sent to a young offenders’ institute for four years.

Bellis pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply a Class A controlled drug, between 1 December 2022 and 28 February 2023, and facilitating the travel of a young person with a view to exploitation.

He was jailed for two years and nine months.

The 17-year-old boy pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply a Class A controlled drug, between 1 December 2022 and 28 February 2023, and being concerned in the supply of cannabis, between 2 October 2022 and 20 January 2023.

He was given a three-year youth rehabilitation requirement and made subject of a three-month electronically monitored curfew order, confining him to his home address between 8pm and 7am.

The two young boys recruited by Raja, whose identities are also protected, were not prosecuted for their roles.

The court heard that no threats were made towards the boys by those controlling them, however, one of them said he was given a machete to assist him in carrying out his role.

Detective Chief Inspector Gemma Scott, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “This was a complex and challenging police investigation which began back in 2022 and involved the arrest and prosecution of individuals both from Nottingham and Loughborough. 

“Criminals working in the County Lines business models cause a significant amount of harm through the exploitation of vulnerable people, often using children to transport and supply Class A drugs.

“These groups also spread misery among the communities in which they operate, and this is why it is a priority for the force to target and disrupt those believed to be involved.

“Our proactive County Lines team, supported by other Force teams and resources, continues to tackle this problem all year round and it’s testament to the hard work, dedication, and teamwork shown by officers that we are able to shut down County Lines operations such as this one.

“We continue to do everything in our power to safeguard our communities and vulnerable young people against organised drug crime and crack down hard on dealers looking to prey on others.”

Anyone who has information regarding drug dealing in their area, is urged to call Nottinghamshire Police on 101, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or dial 999 in an emergency.

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