A man has been jailed after officers revealed he operated county lines graft phones that exploited vulnerable adults to carry out drug offences.
Lee Barnes, aged 23, of Bootle, was sentenced to a total of 45 months for drug offences and received a nine-month concurrent sentence for possession of criminal property.
On 10 June 2022 officers found Barnes in a property in Bootle which he had taken over from the owner to operate a county line graft phone that exploited vulnerable people to carry out drug offences.
At the house, officers also found approximately £2000 and a Surron e-Bike which were seized.
Barnes was arrested on suspicion of drug offences and money laundering but was released under investigation so police could obtain further evidence.
Just one day later a new phone line came into operation within the same area contacting the same customer list as the previous phone.
Following further investigations Barnes was arrested again on Thursday 4 August and was later charged with two counts of being concerned in the supply of Class A cocaine and heroin and possession of criminal property.
Barnes pleaded guilty to all the offences before he was sentenced yesterday (Monday 5 June).
Detective Inspector Gary Stratton said, “Substantial evidence uncovered by our officers revealed Barnes was involved in a county lines drugs conspiracy which he could no longer deny.
“I hope this result sends out a message to those involved in such crimes that our officers will continue to target suspected criminals through the joint work between Operation Toxic and Operation Pelican which is Merseyside Police’s initiative to infiltrate County Lines drug dealings.
“The exploitation of young vulnerable people to carry out crime is not a new phenomenon, but law enforcement is gaining a greater understanding of the signs to spot to target and sentence any criminals who are involved.”
Read more here about how to spot the signs of exploitation linked to drug dealing and the Eyes Open campaign, introduced by Merseyside Violence Reduction Partnership: https://www.merseyside.police.uk/police-forces/merseyside-police/areas/campaigns/campaigns/2018/eyes-open/
You can also report any concerns to police via 101, via Twitter @MerPolCC or Crimestoppers anonymously, on 0800 555 111 or via their online form at: https://crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information/give-information
Always call 999 if a crime is in progress.
Image: Merseyside Police/Lee Barnes