A former nightclub bouncer who flooded the region with cocaine and heroin from his home in Hale has been jailed for 25 years.
Julian Solomon was one of eight men sentenced for their role in a complex operation that eventually ended when a £66.5m haul of Class A drugs was seized at Hull port, the biggest seizure ever made by Greater Manchester Police.
The swoop was the culmination of months of surveillance by officers from GMP’s Serious Organised Crime Group.
Drugs would be imported from Belgium via Hull and transported to a Derbyshire village operated by David Reece and Frank Eaton, who had both previously served time in Belgium prisons for drugs offences.
The drugs were then dispersed to Solomon, who with the help of associates Graham Rawling, Gerard Young and James Newhall, would distribute them to local crime bosses.
Also part of the conspiracy were Jason Starmer, Frank Eaton and Everton Bailey in the Midlands.
Their downfall came on the morning of May 17th last year, when, after a tip-off from GMP, customs officials searched a truck that had arrived on ‘The Pride of Hull’ ferry.
Preston Crown Court heard, reports the Manchester Evening News, that the drugs were concealed in agricultural equipment and trailers, stashed away to such an extent they required heavy duty steel-cutting equipment to access.
A total of 196 packages were discovered – 83kg of heroin and 58kg of cocaine – equivalent to an extraordinary £66.5m in value.
The drugs were intended for an address in Derbyshire, where the tenant was Francis Eaton.
When the drugs didn’t arrive, frantic efforts were made by the gang to track down the haul, with Starmer filmed arriving at Solomon’s home in Hale before departing to catch a flight from Manchester Airport to Belgium.
Eaton was on the same flight, and Preston Crown Court was told they were bound for an emergency meeting about the lost drugs.
Solomon returned to Manchester on May 23rd and was arrested by police.
Over the coming days, further police investigations revealed the gang’s structure and the remaining members were rounded up.
The police investigation subsequently found that between October 2016 and May 2017, 39 similar trips were undertaken by the freight company behind the truck.
Detective Inspector Tony Norman, of GMP’s Serious Organised Crime Group said: “These men operated one of the largest international drug importation networks that GMP has ever investigated, with the seizure of over £66m worth of drugs at Hull port – a key moment in our operation.
“Their offending didn’t just have a local impact on Greater Manchester; it reached across the UK and will no doubt have had a ripple effect in mainland Europe where their money was lining the pockets of crime bosses.
“We know how much misery local dealers can inflict on people’s lives, however men like Eaton, Reece, Solomon and Starmer are the ones who are responsible for supplying those local dealers, enabling them to blight our communities and flood our streets with drugs.
“Our work to tackle local criminality is very important and alongside that we will continue to target those who operate at the very top so that we can shatter these organised crime networks and strangle the supply at a local level.
“This truly was an international team effort and I would like to thank the UK Borders Agency, the National Crime Agency and the Belgian authorities for the key support they have given us in achieving this outcome.
“I want the result today to send a clear message. It doesn’t matter how high up you are in a criminal outfit, if you are involved in the drugs supply trade in Greater Manchester, our incredibly dedicated team will ensure that you face prosecution and brought to justice.”
Julian Solomon, 37, of Grove Lane, was found guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine and heroin and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Jason Starmer, 42, of HMP Liverpool pleaded guilty to import cocaine and heroin and was sentenced to 21 years. He also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm prior to being sentenced.
David Reece, 55, of Ludlam Ave, Nottinghamshire was found guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine and heroin and was sentenced to 16 years.
Everton Bailey, 57, of Mandarin Way, Derbyshire was found guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine and heroin and was sentenced to 16 years.
Graham Rawling, 58, of Sussex Road, Southport pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and was found guilty of conspiracy to supply heroin, and was sentenced to 10 years.
Gerrard Young, 48, of Heathwood Road, Burnage , was found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin and was sentenced to nine years.
James Newhall, 42, of Delph Common Road, Ormskirk pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin and was sentenced to six years and nine months.
Frank Eaton, 47, of Bag Lane, Ashbourne pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine and heroin and will be sentenced on April 20.