The leader of a ‘well-organized’ drug gang who was caught using a specific phone line to drive cocaine and heroin between Greater Manchester and North Yorkshire during lockdown has been jailed – along with some of his comrades.
Jack Smedley, 24, and seven others have been taken to court after a massive, 18-month police investigation into the illegal business that announced £ 10 deals.
The cross-Pennine conspiracy was crushed by police officers assigned to Greater Manchester Police’s dedicated Operation Homestead. Officers from North Yorkshire Police and the Humber Regional Organized Crime Unit were also involved.
The investigation was launched in May 2020.
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Detectives discovered that the group referred to their medicine line as the ‘Junior Line’.
Most of their appointments were made between April and June last year.
Police say they believe ‘vulnerable people’ – including children – were used to store drugs on ‘cuckoo’ properties in York.
A sting was carried out in October when officers stormed 10 properties in Manchester, Oldham, Tameside and York.
Prosecutors were then charged.
Today (Thursday) Smedley learned his fate.
Seven others have also appeared in the quay.
Smedley controlled ‘Junior Line’, which was registered with a false name.
He broadcast mass texts announcing the sale of heroin and cocaine in £ 10 deals, Minshull Street Crown Court heard.
Others were hired to act as couriers and collectors.
Prosecutor Deborah Smithies said: “The line was primarily used by Jack Smedley and then handed over to Daniel Halford at a later date.
“Three days after the line was activated and in operation, it sent out a mass text stating that there were drugs for sale.”
Smedley, from Moston, employed a number of people. Some moved drugs to York, while others collected the money to be brought back to Manchester.
One of the couriers, Georgia Leigh, 23, made several trips to and from York, sometimes by train and sometimes driven by another.
She would stay in York for a short period of time – sometimes as little as 20 minutes – before returning to Oldham.
“Simon Potter was based in the York end, and the apartment he shared was used as a base to which the drugs were sold to customers,” Ms Smithies added.
“Daniel Halford was based in the Manchester end, he made trips to York to help with the sales operation there.
“Nicole Crighton traveled with Georgia Leigh four times from Greater Manchester to York and back.
“Simon Davies was involved in a single apartment on May 18. He drove two teenagers from Oldham to York, both of whom were recruited by Smedley.
“Then Marc and Michelle Simpson were involved in two occasions where they drove two teenagers from York back to Oldham and drove Halford from York to Oldham.”
There were a number of occasions when Leigh, from Oldham, traveled to York, sometimes twice a day, to drop off supplies.
She later admitted to police that she traveled daily over the two-month period.
Police discovered extensive telephone communications between ‘Junior Line’ operated by Smedley, Leigh and Potter.
Two teenagers – both under 18 – were also recruited by Smedley to move drugs.
One of them sent a message to Smedley: “How much do we get each, bro? I thought when I first called that I was £ 150 for a day.”
Within minutes, ‘Junior Line’ aired a mass text that read, “Back.”
The boys were driven by Davies, from Limeside, Oldham, to York in his Jaguar and dropped off at Potter’s apartment in York.
Recovered from one of the teenager’s phones was a note – described as a ‘tick list’ – with details of heroin and cocaine under the letters ‘W’ and ‘B’ as well as a current sum of holdings and cash.
The teens were later driven back to Manchester by Marc and Michelle Simpson.
During the trip, one of the teenagers was pictured with a piece of money left in the car.
Smedley was arrested in October last year, and after his phone was seized and analyzed, officers restored a debtor list with names and values owed.
No drugs were seized after an extensive 18-month police investigation.
The extent of the operation is not known, but a detective constable said that Junior Line sent out 4,108 texts in mass advertising of the outfit.
Officers were told that a package in the size of ‘golf ball’ had once been seen.
Manchester courts are some of the busiest in the country with a wide range of cases dealt with each week.
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Hugh Barton appeased Smedley, saying: “Since he was 16, he was pressured by an organized crime group into county line violations.
“He maintains that there were others above him in the organization.”
Judge John Potter said: “It was well organized and planned with different people playing different roles, ensuring that the drug supply could take place on the streets of York.
“Jack Smedley employed trusted persons to carry out the activity, including carrying the drugs to and from Manchester.”
The judge said Leigh played a ‘vital role’ in the operation and without her sending drugs, the operation would not have been viable.
- Jack Smedley , 24, of Heppleton Road, who has “many” previous convictions for drug trafficking, will serve 13 years behind bars after receiving a four-and-a-half-year additional sentence for the eight-and-a-half-year period he was ordered to serve in April for further supply of Class A drugs to York. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs; and a separate offense aggravated vehicle seizure
- Daniel Halford , 36, of HMP Forest Bank, was sentenced to three years for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs
- Simon Potter , 49, of Leicester Way, York, who has 52 convictions for 159 offenses, was jailed for two years and 10 months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs
- Marc Simpson , 55, Wilberforce Avenue, York, who has 19 previous convictions, was sentenced two years after pleading guilty to supplying Class A drugs
- Georgia Leigh , 23, of Bowling Green Close, Oldham, was sentenced to four years and two months for conspiracy to supply Class A substances – including 10 months for transporting ‘List A’ items to prison, namely Class A substances, mobile phones, cannabis and tobacco
- Nicole Crighton , 22, of Wilson Way, Oldham, who has two previous convictions, was guilty of being concerned about the supply of Class A substances and was sentenced to two years, suspended for two years; as well as 150 hours of unpaid work
- Simon Davies , 48, of Higher House Close, Oldham, who had 25 convictions, received a two-year community order; 150 hours of unpaid work; and 17 days of rehabilitation after admitting to participating in the activities of an organized crime group
- Michelle simpson , 48, of Wilberforce Avenue, York, received a two-year community order; nine months of rehabilitation days; and 20 days of unpaid work after admitting to participating in the activities of an organized crime group
- Stephanie Beard , 27, on Dumfries Avenue, Oldham – a GMP civil servant in the administration department – pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance and received a two-year conditional discharge in August. She has been suspended since September 2020 pending an upcoming prosecution, the GMP said.
‘This puts an end to what has been a comprehensive and complex study’
Detective Chris Brown of GMP Oldham’s Challenger team said: “Today’s judgments bring to an end a comprehensive and complex investigation into the trafficking of large quantities of drugs between Greater Manchester and North Yorkshire.
“Violating county lines are a serious problem being addressed across the country between forces and partner agencies to target perpetrators, take drugs off the streets and protect victims from exploitation.
“We believe that vulnerable people were sacrificed to facilitate this conspiracy here, and we have ensured that children as young as 16 as well as vulnerable adults have been protected from future exploitation.
“This is in addition to putting five people behind bars and taking significant amounts of Class A drugs from circulation on the streets of our two counties across the Pennines and possibly beyond.
“I would like to thank all the detectives, officers, local agencies and police partners from North Yorkshire for their commitment and support during this investigation over the last 18 months for helping to take some serious offenders out of our communities.”
North Yorkshire Police Detective Inspector Michelle Falkingham, of York CID, added: “The outcome of this case highlights why cross-border work with other forces is crucial when it comes to killing drug gangs from county lines.
“This gang brought violence and misery to our city, and it’s good to see justice catch up with them.
“The case comes in the wake of a similar operation by North Yorkshire police linked to the junior line that brought 10 suspects to court, including Smedley, who was jailed for eight years earlier this year. I thank everyone involved.”
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