A DRUG-DEALING gang carried out its business under two different ‘brand names’ – one for its operation in Stratford, and another for its Leamington arm.
Following a police operation in the two towns, a number of people have pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to conspiring to supply heroin and crack cocaine.
But four men denied the two charges – only for one of them, Jordan Hill, 30, of Constance Road, Birmingham, to change his pleas to guilty as their trial was about to begin.
And Paul Walker, 20, of Roseberry Avenue, Coventry, and Lewis Kerr, 29, of Westminster Road, Coventry, were both found guilty after the trial – at which the jury found Karl Wheeler, 30, of Drayton Avenue, Stratford, not guilty of both charges.
Prosecutor Matthew Brook had told the jury: “This trial is about Class A drug dealing, county line drug dealing.
“It involves a team of drug dealers from a city, where large amounts of cheap drugs are available, taking those drugs to the streets of smaller towns where drugs are less freely available, so they can sell them at a greater profit.
“This case involves a county line which ran from Coventry, where many of the people you will hear about lived, to both Stratford-upon Avon and Leamington Spa.
“Drug dealing is a crime, but it’s also a business – and many of the ideas and principles ordinary businesses use, also apply to drug dealing businesses.
“Like legitimate businesses, it’s useful for a drugs business to have a brand name, so customers know which business they are dealing with, which business to contact for their daily fix and which business to recommend to fellow drug-users.
“The business in this case used two different brand names – the CJ line and the Kano line.”
Mr Brook said that phones attributed to the two lines, with the CJ line being used mainly for the Stratford operation and the Kano line in Leamington, were points of contact for orders to be placed, and were also used to send out ‘advertising messages.’
As with a legitimate business, ‘you have the bosses, you have the managers, and you have the workers,’ delivering drugs to users or providing addresses for others to work from.
Outlining a series of events, Mr Brook said in January 2019 Levi Pollard-Merson, 28, of Widdecombe Close, Coventry, at the time, who is among those who have pleaded guilty, was arrested at an address in Christie Way, Stratford.
On the floor next to him were 36 wraps of crack cocaine and 33 wraps of heroin worth £10 each – although the organisation, attracted customers by offering three for £25.
Although Pollard-Merson was ‘getting his hands dirty’ on that occasion, he was actually one of the bosses.
In May that year Gary Brown, of Winston Avenue, Coventry, was arrested behind Stratford Leisure Centre and found to have 49 wraps of heroin and 98 of crack, as well as £200 from drug sales.
Brown was working for Pollard-Merson on the CJ line, and on his phone the police found a message sent to his girlfriend on an earlier occasion reading: “I’ve just made 1500 from sales.”
In October 2019 Brown crashed as he tried to get away from the police after being seen driving a car in Leamington, and when he was arrested he had two wraps of heroin and £400 in cash.
He also had three phones, one of which had instructions from the Kano line on it, together with sent ‘advertising texts,’ and another had been used to send a text that he was out of crack.
The following month Pollard-Merson drove to Leamington with Jordan Hill, who was described as one of the bosses, and they were arrested after the police used a stinger to stop their car.
On Pollard-Merson’s phone were messages he had sent to Hill, including ‘sold all that’ and ‘lines are kicking,’ and in the road near to the car was found a Kano line phone and a package containing more than 180 wraps of class A drugs, said Mr Brook.
Hill claimed he had been on his way to get a haircut in Leamington, and denied knowing anything about the drugs – but Mr Brook pointed out that in 2018 he had been convicted at Exeter Crown Court of being involved in another ‘county lines’ operation.
In December 2018 Kieron Hill met two men in an alleyway and was handed £20 before they noticed the police and made off.
Later that evening Hill left an address in Carew Close, Stratford, and got into a taxi, which was stopped, and he had more than £890 in cash on him and, between his buttocks, a bag containing 33 wraps of heroin and 17 of crack.
He was released, and in January last year he was found on a canal towpath in Stratford and, again between his buttocks, he had a package of 31 wraps of crack and ten of heroin.
The next month a car driven by Kerr pulled onto the Fisherman’s car park on the outskirts of Stratford, and he and his passenger Nell Desnousse, who has pleaded guilty, were arrested.
No drugs were found on Kerr, but in his boxer shorts Desnousse had 80 wraps of crack and 49 of heroin – and Mr Brook said Kerr’s role had been to drive Desnousse around to sell drugs.
In June last year Wheeler left his Drayton Avenue home, and cycled to an alleyway where the police suspected he was involved in a drug deal, and he was detained.
There had been contact between Wheeler and the CJ Line, and after he was detained there were many attempts by the CJ Line to contact him – and Mr Brook alleged he was ‘an employee’ rather than a customer.
But Wheeler insisted he had not allowed Pollard-Merson or Walker to use his flat, although they may have been visiting someone called John Lewis who was staying there.
He said he funded his own addiction by busking, begging and from benefit payments, and that his contact with the CJ Line was to purchase drugs.
On June 15 the police stopped a car on the A46 near Warwick, and Pollard-Merson, who was driving, had £270 on him, while his passenger, Walker, had more than £1300 and a phone with the Kano Line number on it.
Walker claimed the money was to pay for flowers and a headstone for his father who had passed away two weeks earlier.
Mr Brook said that when Kerr was interviewed after being arrested in September last year when he attended a police station, he made no comment.
After the jury’s verdicts, Judge Peter Cooke adjourned the case for reports to be prepared on Walker, who was remanded in custody, and Kerr, who was granted bail in his absence because he is self-isolating.