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East Lancashire drugs gang who ran cannabis ring put behind bars
MEMBERS of one of East Lancashire’s biggest cannabis supply gangs have been put behind bars.
The nine-strong gang was behind a highly-organised distribution network which provided the drug on demand to ‘customers’ in Blackburn and Hyndburn.
Cannabis was seized by officers in a number of raids, but it was the wealth of telephone evidence which was most remarkable, Preston Crown Court heard.
Eighty-seven handsets were recovered by detectives, working on Eastern policing division’s targeted crime team, including two key mobiles which sent out between 300 and 400 texts to drug users over the course of 24 hours.
Police said the gang was one of the largest and most highly-organised they had ever seen.
The ‘brazen’ group, which operated for around 18 months, was even caught on CCTV dealing cannabis in full view of youngsters.
The court heard brothers Abbas and Mubashshir Aziz headed up the gang. They used people to store the cannabis, drivers to deliver the drug and dealers to sell it.
One man, Naeem Mohammed, kept scales, snap bags and plastic gloves to package up the deals.
Judge Heather Lloyd said: “The customers practically queued up.”
The gang were all arrested through Lancashire Police’s Operation Psyche.
Abbas Aziz, 27, of Audley Range Blackburn, was one of the ring leaders alongside his brother Mubashshir Aziz, 25, who is still on the run from police.
The elder of the brothers was given a 38-month jail sentence.
The court was told how mum-of-seven Emma Lee, of Union Road, Oswaldtwistle, would hold onto drugs for the two dealers.
The 33-year-old was said to have begun smoking cannabis as a remedy for post-natal depression.
One of the largest cannabis seizures came when her home was raided in November 2011, with stashes weighing 602g and 55g, valued at £6,000 and £505 respectively, uncovered.
She was given an eight-month prison term, suspended for two years, as well as a 12-month supervision order.
Naeem Mohamed, 20, of Town Walk, Blackburn, who was described as a ‘custodian’ of cannabis was sent to a young offenders institute for 19 months.
Driver Suhail Patel, 27, of Accrington Road, Blackburn, was jailed for 10 months and 23-year-old street-level dealer Tayab Rehman, of St James Road, Blackburn was also sent to prison for eight months.
Safvan Patel, 27, of East Park Road, Blackburn, was jailed for 22 weeks for his part as a street-level dealer.
He is also waiting to be sentenced by Bolton Crown Court for death by careless driving.
Adil Patel, 27, of Wensley Road, Babar Khan, 24, of Elm Street, and Mohammed Hassan, 22, of Cherry Street, all Blackburn, were given suspended sentences.
Sentencing the group, Judge Lloyd said: “You have all eventually entered guilty pleas to your parts in the conspiracy to supply cannabis on the streets of Blackburn.
“This was truly street dealing on a significant scale.
“The CCTV of the dealing which took place on September 16, 2012 was brazen and in full view of many young children.”
After the hearing, Det Sgt Andrew Osbaldeston, from Lancashire Police’s eastern division CID, thanked the community for information provided leading to the gang’s arrest.
He said: “This was a significant and well-organised conspiracy operating within the Blackburn and Hyndburn areas in the supply of cannabis.
“It was one of the biggest and most organised at street level I have come across and one in which Abbas Aziz played a leading role.
“That is reflected in his sentence.
“Cannabis causes harm to communities and to families and it is not to be accepted as a harmless drug with no consequences.
“These were prolific drug dealers and some of their actions, which were caught on CCTV, show the lengths they were prepared to go to continue their trade.
“They drove off from police officers, crashed into houses and even supplied drugs outside youth establishments such as a snooker hall, where people were queuing for their next deal.
“Young people may have been influenced by them and persuaded to start taking drugs, and that is the harm I am talking about.”