Five members of an organised crime gang (OCG) responsible for orchestrating the large-scale movement of class A drugs into Crewe have been jailed for a total of more than 45 years.
The men, from both Crewe and Liverpool, were convicted as part of Operation Attached – an investigation launched by Cheshire Police into a major class A drugs conspiracy.
It is estimated this conspiracy brought between £459,300 and £742,340 worth of cocaine, heroin, and crack cocaine into Crewe and surrounding areas from Liverpool over approximately 13 months.
A total of 11 defendants have pleaded guilty to being involved in the OCG. Five were sentenced at Chester Crown Court on Friday 28 July for conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin.
The defendants sentenced so far include:
- Merold Stennett, 44, of Crewe– 12 years
- William Gooley, 39, of Bootle, Liverpool – 12 years
- William Sutherland, 62, of Kirkdale, Liverpool – Six years and nine months
- Andrew Williams, 39, of Liverpool – Six years and nine months
- Russell Schofield, 32, formerly of Crewe – Eight years
A further six defendants will be sentenced next month.
Police produced evidence of the drugs operation taking place between 27 October 2021 and 10 November 2022.
The investigation established Stennett as the ringleader of the group based in Crewe. Despite him having no bank account or job, he would use proceeds from the sale of drugs to fund a lavish lifestyle, living far beyond his means with designer items and expensive holidays abroad.
Schofield was evidenced to be one of Stennett’s deputies, assisting in orchestrating the movement and supply of drugs.
Stennett’s upstream supplier in Liverpool was identified as Gooley, assisted by Sutherland and associate Williams.
On 27 October 2021, Cheshire Police executed multiple warrants in Crewe, during which police seized scales with traces of cocaine, benzocaine and cannabis found on them. Also found on the scales was Stennett’s DNA.
Police established Gooley, Sutherland, and Williams had travelled to Crewe to meet with Stennett, and on occasions Schofield, in relation to drugs.
During this phase of the conspiracy, police gathered evidence showing that both Stennett and Gooley reaped the financial benefits of their drugs supply operation.
Stennett enjoyed holidays in Greece and Turkey. Gooley holidayed in Spain and Portugal while continuing to criminally operate via his mobile phones.
Cheshire Police conducted simultaneous search warrants at numerous addresses in Crewe, Sandbach, and Liverpool.
As part of these, Stennett, Gooley, Sutherland, Williams, and Schofield were all arrested.
Numerous high-value and designer items were seized during the warrants, as well as a large quantity of class A drugs from Williams’ address worth approximately £111,970.
A drug expert estimated Stennett and his OCG were responsible for trafficking more than 15kg of class A drugs into Crewe and surrounding areas, equating to a total value of between £459,300 and £742,340.
Of this, a total of 3kg, with a street value of £352,100, was seized during police interventions throughout the investigation.
After a thorough investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service agreed to charge all five men with conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin.
Following the sentencing, Detective Inspector Nick Henderson of the Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said, “I welcome the sentences handed to Stennett and his associates, who have collectively been put behind bars for more than 45 years.
“To the outside world, Stennett and Gooley were both unemployed men who lived in modest rented homes. But in reality, the pair, and other members of the OCG, lived extravagant lifestyles far beyond their means.
“They reaped the benefits of their criminal activity, ranging from luxury and designer items to five-star holidays and extravagant trips. The pair even attended a boxing event at Wembley Stadium during the weekend of 22 April 2022, staying in costly hotels.
“Both Stennett and Gooley did their best to hide their illegal activities. Stennett did not have a bank account, meaning there was no financial footprint. Both also used their associates to store and distribute the drugs.
“However, thanks to the hard work of a dedicated team of officers throughout a lengthy investigation, these individuals are now facing the consequences of their actions and a large amount of class A drugs has been taken off the streets.
“Operation Attached highlights that we are committed to tacking organised crime and drugs offences. I hope this sends a stark warning to anyone wishing to conduct drugs offences in Cheshire – this behaviour will not be tolerated in our county.”
Image: (L-R) William Gooley, William Sutherland, and Andrew Williams. Cheshire Constabulary