'I sell to smackheads' - Heroin and crack kingpin, 23, gets eight years
- Credit: Jamie Honeywood
A drug kingpin has been jailed for eight years for running a gang which sold £140,000-worth of heroin and crack cocaine in his home town of Great Yarmouth in less than three months.
Damien Laverick, 23, launched his illegal enterprise last January, just two days after walking free from a three-year prison sentence, Norwich Crown Court heard today.
He used a mobile phone previously used by a drugs gang jailed in 2019 - a phone number known to its customers as “Chase” - to send bulk texts to known addicts offering “3 for 2” deals on wraps of Class A drugs.
Chase and its successor were “county lines”, the police term for a phone number known to addicts which is run by a criminal gang who source drugs in a major city and import them into regional towns and cities.
Jude Durr, opening for the Crown, told the court Laverick had “brought the Chase line network back from the dead”
Laverick’s girlfriend, Rachel Harrison, 21, of Eccleston Cl Great Yarmouth acted as his “taxi service”, and helped with resupply runs, Mr Durr told the court.
Joshua Luker, 23, and Luker’s partner Shannon O’Donoghue, 23, both of Great Yarmouth, worked to cut the drugs and recruit and manage street level dealers, many of whom were drawn from among the town’s addict community.
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The four have pleaded guilty to conspiring to supply heroin and crack cocaine, along with nine other members of the gang who have pleaded or been found guilty.
In texts recovered by police Laverick boasted of “selling to smackheads” and said “I’ve been doing this three weeks and I make more money than people who have been in this town for years".
Appearing in court via video link, Laverick sat slumped in a grey sweatshirt, smirking when the content of his text messages were read out.
On the basis of drug quantities found on the conspirators and the number of bulk texts sent, police and prosecutors estimate Laverick’s gang distributed between 800g and 1200g of Class A drugs between January 6 and April 2 2020, with a street value of between £80,000 and £144,000.
The conspiracy was quickly uncovered by Great Yarmouth police using intelligence gathered from mobile phone data, and following a series of arrests in early February the town’s plain clothes Neighbourhood Policing Team started closing in on Lavery who was arrested and taken into custody on April 1.
The full story of the complex police operation which surveilled, investigated and brought down the Chase Two gang will appear in the EDP on Saturday.
Mitigating, Andrew Oliver argued Laverick was not the head of the operation, merely the phone holder at an “operational management” level, involved in ensuring money was going down to Essex and drugs coming up to Yarmouth.
He said Laverick had no assets on him when arrested and said the quantities involved had been much smaller than put forward by the Crown’s calculations.
Sentencing, Mr Recorder John Hardy QC rejected the submission.
He told Laverick: “On 4 April 2018 you were sentenced to three years for distribution of class A drugs.
“On 16th January 2019 you were found in possession of a mobile telephone, a SIM card and a charger in prison.”
He went on: “Within days of your release you were back to your old ways, which in reality you’d never given up because you were dealing, clearly, in prison.
“That conviction, and the finding of that mobile telephone, tell me that you are the kingpin of this operation.”
The judge added: “The rather elderly population of Great Yarmouth's registered heroin addicts proved a suitable recruiting ground for you and for those who played an organisational role in this conspiracy."
Passing a more lenient sentence on one of Laverick’s co-conspirators, Mr Recorder Hardy alluded to Laverick saying he had already made clear who he believed “the real pernicious, malevolent influence in this organisation" to have been.
With 25pc discount for an early guilty plea he passed a sentence of eight years on each the two counts, conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine, to run concurrently. Sentencing for co-conspirators was adjourned until later this month.