County lines gang bringing drugs to SW brought to justice

From Devon & Cornwall Police:

A County Lines gang from London that flooded Exeter with Class A drugs and coerced children into gang activity have been brought to justice.

Shuiab Omar Awadh, aged 24, and Bobo Faki, aged 19, were today [Thursday 25 April] both found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin following a trial at Exeter Crown Court.

Seven other members of the gang all pleaded guilty before trial to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

The sentencing of the nine defendants will take place in due course. They are:

  • Hassan Sufi, aged 20, of Valence Avenue, Essex;
  • Yakub Sufi, aged 19, of Valence Avenue, Essex;
  • Ahmed Abdullahi, aged 21, of Seymour Road, London;
  • Bobo Faki, aged 19, of Dukes Court, East Ham, London;
  • Faisal Ibrahim, aged 24, of Upper Road, London;
  • Khadija Shariff, aged 20, of Crest Walk, South Woodford, London;
  • Shuiab Omar Awadh, aged 24, of Liberty Bridge Road, Stratford;
  • Robin Janowski, aged 39, of Stepcote Hill, Exeter;
  • Jake Taplin, aged 22, of Portelet Road, London.

A further 17 individuals, who were identified as local street dealers in and around the Exeter area, have already been sentenced at previous hearings.

Detective Sergeant Matt Lawrence said: “County Lines is the term used to describe urban gangs supplying drugs to other parts of the UK using dedicated mobile phone lines.

“These convictions are down to the hard work of the Devon and Cornwall Police investigation by the Serious and Organised Crime Investigation Team (SOCIT) who launched Operation Connard which focused on the trafficking of Class A drugs into Exeter from the London area.

“The operation started in July 2017 after an undercover officer managed to purchase drugs over the phone on a county line; this call was taken and an order was placed with a man with a London accent.

“A short time later, we went to the pre-arranged pick-up point and made an arrest where we seized drugs, cash and mobile phones. From here we continued to build an intelligence picture and managed to identify a number of drug lines from London into Exeter.”

The first county line identified was the Mitch line; police later also linked those who have been convicted to the drug supply behind the Rico and Pricey lines. Drug dealers including Hassan Sufi and Yakub Sufi would be in control of these drug lines and would take drug orders from local dealers in Exeter, as well as send out bulk text messages to local dealers and drug users advertising their products.

In August 2017, police began to monitor the trafficking of drugs from London down to Exeter. DS Lawrence continued: “Journeys were made by a number of the gang including Ibraham, Sufi and Abdullahi in possession of large amounts of Class A drugs to meet these orders.

“We also identified Robin Janowski and Jake Taplin as both being in Exeter and playing an integral role in the operating of the Rico line, undertaking drug runs and cash collections locally.”

Detective Constable Tracey Stafford said: “A large number of these journeys would be made by the gang who preyed on children to undertake drug-running and cash collection for the gang

“Four children aged 13 to 15 were befriended by members of the gang in London before being turned on and threatened, claiming that they lost packages and now owed the gangs hundreds of pounds which they didn’t have.

“Khadija Sharif in particular coerced and threatened children into making drug runs from London to Exeter – Faisal Ibraham and Hassan Sufi undertook numerous journeys from with a minor to undertake drug drops and cash collections.

“Thankfully, as part of our investigations, we have managed to identify and help these children, freeing them from the grasp of the gang and allowing them to hopefully have a different future.”

DS Lawrence concluded: “The gang would brazenly show off their ill-gotten gains; gang members and drug dealers Faisal Ibrahim, Yakub Sufi, Hasan Sufi, Faisal Ibrahim and Bobo Faki all filmed themselves during drug runs to Exeter and bringing cash back in London, sharing these videos on Snapchat.”

“I would like to personally thank all who worked on this wide and complex case for their hard work and efforts. Without them, these individuals would still be dealing Class A drugs and coercing children into a gang lifestyle.

“Today’s result shows that Devon and Cornwall Police continue to work hard to identify those responsible for the drug trade in our area and to bring them to justice; they ruin lives and we will not turn a blind eye to this type of gang activity.”

The operation was supported by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SW ROCU).

Detective Chief Inspector Ben Mant, in charge of the region’s covert teams at SW ROCU, said: “Specialist undercover officers spent more than 10 months gathering in excess of 2,500 pieces of intelligence to help Devon and Cornwall Police secure these convictions and protect children from the gang’s violence.”

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