Twenty-six members of a gang which smuggled drugs stashed inside toilets and cat litter into the UK have been jailed.
The group, based in Liverpool, ran a “sophisticated” operation using fake companies to flood the north west with hard drugs worth millions, police said.
Gang bosses spent their cash on jewellery, designer clothes, cars and luxury holidays.
Ringleader Ian Spackman, 37, was jailed for 17 years and four months.
The gang stashed cannabis inside the cat litter and toilets, and also smuggled heroin and cocaine to Lancashire, Cumbria and Teesside, police said.
During the 18-month investigation, detectives seized heroin, cocaine and cannabis with an estimated total street value of £453,000.
Spackman had been overheard saying the business made £80,000 over two weeks but it was only “ticking over” and he wanted more, police said.
He lived a lavish lifestyle and was was described as a professional, well-organised and sophisticated criminal who enjoyed lengthy holidays in Dubai and Thailand.
The court heard he had “the financial wherewithal to enjoy a lifestyle that would be out of the reach of most hardworking members of the public”.
Det Ch Insp Steve Reardon said the gang used false companies to bring illegal drugs from mainland Europe which were then distributed within Liverpool and beyond.
He said: “Our investigation showed that Ian Spackman, James Gannon and Tom Collins ran this organised crime group and they lived lifestyles that most decent hard working people can only dream of, but our investigation today shows that this lifestyle was short lived and crime doesn’t pay.”
When detectives raided the members’ homes they seized goods worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and £250,000 in cash.
It was the first time Merseyside Police had used new powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) to seize goods officers suspected were bought with criminal wealth.
Rather than wait until the end of the trial, Det Ch Insp Reardon said, such items were confiscated at the time of arrest.
Those jailed for over 10 years were –
• Ian Spackman, 37, of Rosslyn Avenue, Maghull, was considered to be the head of this organised crime group and operated on a commercial scale. He was sentenced to 17 years and four months
• James Gannon, 35, of Sunbury Road, Liverpool, who managed the movement of the drugs, was sentenced to 22 years
• Tom Collins, 34, of Higher Lane, Fazakerley, was “third in charge” and was jailed for 16 years
• Marc Campbell, 41, of Ince Road, Thornton, was “instrumental” in the Liverpool-side of the business and sentenced to 14 years
• Peter Mulvaney, 35, of Larchfield Road, Crosby, set up a fake buisness as part of the scam and was sentenced to 19 years.
• Paul Hornby, 39, of Pemberton Road, Old Swan, was a “a vital cog in the wheel” and jailed for 13 years and four months.
• Gary Unsworth, 34, of Orrell Lane, Orrell Park, sentenced to 10 years previously and a further two years for this conspiracy, to run concurrently.
• John Carey, 34 , of Henry Street, Liverpool, co-ordinated handovers of drugs and cash and was sentenced to 11 years four months.
• Sonny Dickson, 28, of Dalkeith Road, Nelson, Lancashire, was part of a group that supplied drugs to Blackpool and was jailed for 11 years.
• Courier Paul Doyle, 33, of Hereford Drive, Netherton, was sentenced to 10 years.
• Robert Tate-Potts, 31, of Blackpool, was another regional dealer, sentenced to 11 years