Nine men have been jailed for a total of 43 years for their involvement in a major drugs conspiracy in Kent.
Istvan Lakatos, 21, Nigel Adams, 59, Zamir Mucllari, 27, Mi-hat Cerri, 33, Josh Murphy, 24, his brother Ross Murphy, 28, Kevin Bedford, 32, and Stephen Palmer, 31, were all sentenced for conspiracy to supply drugs.
Palmer’s father, also Stephen, 52, who runs a wet fish business, was sentenced for laundering £53,000.
The gang was said to have a drugs cutting production line. Picture: Thinkstock
Ross Murphy, 28, of Russett Farm, Rainham, was jailed for six years nine months, Josh Murphy, of Mallow Road, Minster, Sheppey, for six years, Adams, of Sutherland Gardens, Rainham, for six years, Stephen Palmer junior, of Bramley Way, Kings Hill, for six years, Mucllari, of Kingsley Road, Maidstone, for five years three months, Cerri, of Spencer Bridge Road, Northampton, for five years, Lakatos, of Scott Street, Maidstone, for four years, Kevin Bedford, of Jacklin Close, Chatham, for two years and Stephen Palmer senior, of Oslin Walk, Kings Hill, for two years.
Maidstone Crown Court heard how an undercover police operation led to the drugs ring being smashed.
The “puppet master” pulling the strings in the supply and distribution of cocaine was said to be Albanian Astrit Suli, who operated from his home in Edna Road, Ringlestone, Maidstone.
Prosecutor Edward Fowler said the conspiracy between February and June last year involved about £250,000 worth of the drug.
Officers saw “kilo size” packages of cocaine worth £50,000 being handed over.
Josh Murphy, Nigel Adams, Stephen Palmer, Zamir Mucllari
The high purity drug would be bulked up with other cutting agents to produce four times as much when sold on the street.
Mr Fowler said officers saw drug exchanges at Suli’s home early last year. He will be sentenced at a later date.
The first arrests involving Josh and Ross Murphy were made in February last year. When stopped in Bredhurst in a VW Golf car, Joss Murphy ran off across a field.
Istvan Lakatos, Kevin Bedford, Mit-Hat Cerri, Ross Murphy, Stephen Palmer
He was caught in Yelsted Lane and a kilo of cocaine at 77% purity was tucked in his trousers.
When a house in Elmstone Road, Gillingham, was raided one man fled in “literally a cloud of dust”, which turned out to be cocaine.
Officers then found a “cutting production line” and seized just under £2,000 in cash.
Judge Charles Macdonald QC said personal mitigation carried little weight and deterrent sentences for the wholesale distribution of high purity cocaine were called for.
“He knew the money was the proceeds of crime. He accepts that what he did was not only criminal but stupid in the extreme" - David Brock, for Stephen Palmer snr
Suli and another Albanian, he said, were the ringleaders.
David Brock, for Stephen Palmer senior, said the grandfather and father-of-six had transported £53,000 in his van to help out his son.
“He was willing, foolishly, to engage in his son’s request,” said Mr Brock.
“He knew the money was the proceeds of crime. He accepts that what he did was not only criminal but stupid in the extreme.”
Palmer had three employees in his wet fish business, which it was hoped would continue while he was in prison, added Mr Brock.