A huge crime gang guilty of trafficking drugs across the UK from their base in Ibiza have been jailed for a combined total of 86 years and two months.
The 21 men and women part of a criminal gang known as the "Burns OCG", used hire cars and campervans to blend in with holiday makers in Ibiza while trafficking £1.4million worth of heroin and cocaine across the UK.
The gang, mostly made up of friends and family, operated out of Liverpool, Cheshire, Lancashire and London. They used 40 supply phone lines to distribute the drugs to Exeter, Devon and Cornwall. Some key members even ran the operation from Ibiza during the summer months.
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Their plot was foiled when police obtained a phone linking them to drug lines operating from Liverpool. The gang members were sentenced at Exeter Crown Court this month after an investigation launched in early 2021 identified them selling Class A drugs in Exeter.
Four men from the North West were identified as key players in a criminal operation. They went to great lengths to shield their illegal activities and prevent police interference. Benjamin Burns, 25, from Prescot, Merseyside, was sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison. He controlled several drug line phones with his mate Georgie Keating, 24, from Huyton, Merseyside, who received an 11-year and five-month sentence.
Burns and Keating teamed up with father-son duo Thomas Keating, 43, from Huyton, and Christy Keating, 24, from Widnes, Cheshire. The pair were handed prison sentences of 10 years and 10 years and five months respectively. They rented vehicles costing £25,000 for trips lasting between two and 15 days. While in the South West, they would meet other group members to establish new lines and move drugs, cash, and phones. A "spoofer" SIM card was one method used to protect their criminal activities.
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Each time this SIM card was used, it displayed a different number on the recipient's phone and couldn't be called back. They had separate numbers for customers to use, making it difficult for the number to be tracked.
The gang shelled out £700 for a six-month contract and police discovered they made five trips to the South West, coinciding with some of the key players. They were careful not to mix contacts and used different phone numbers to chat amongst themselves and their customers.
However, cops found social media messages where members were planning trips, including voice notes from Christy Keating to his uncle, James Casey, 45. In one, he told him they had been "booting doors in" and that he didn't want him to "risk getting a 12" with him hinting at a prison sentence. Casey was handed a two-year suspended sentence.
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Working with Casey to supply was Taylor Burns, 31, from Lancashire. He was put behind bars for five years and two months for his role which included trips to Torquay with mates. Christopher Mallen, 65, and his son Kevin, 41, both from Huyton, were two of the main delivery guys for the group, making 26 out of the 33 proven runs.
Christopher Mallen made his last trip in March 2022 and was nabbed in Barnstaple, Devon with £25,000 worth of heroin hidden inside the centre console of his car. He was given a six-year prison sentence.
Lee Paton, 34, from Kensington, west London, was the third courier and was stopped along with Thomas Keating on the M5 coming into Devon. The police found heroin worth £68,600 and 16.5kg of amphetamine with a potential street value of between £80,000 and £160,000 in their car.
Paton was sentenced to three years and 10 months for supplying heroin and amphetamine. In total, based on the seizures made and the number of trips evidenced, police say that 15.4kg of heroin and cocaine worth over £1.4 million was supplied. Jake Myers, 22, from Liverpool, who was sentenced to three years and six months, was one of the drug suppliers for the group.
He was arrested while cuckooing a house in Exeter, which means taking over the home of a vulnerable person in order to establish a base for illegal drug dealing,with one of the drug line phones and cash profits found in his possession.
Jamie Marshall, 22, from London, was another main supplier and was found in South Devon. He ran the "Torbay Drugs Lines" and had nearly £10,000 in cash with him in a car. Marshall got six years behind bars. Maggie Burns, 21, from Prescot, and Dannielle Marshall, 27, from London, helped the gang and cleaned their dirty money. They were sisters of other gang members. CCTV caught them regularly depositing cash once the crime money had been taken back to Liverpool.
They got suspended sentences of 18 months and 12 months each. The drug network was big, with a strong supply across Exeter, Exmouth, Torbay and South Devon, North Devon and Cornwall. Eight key people managed the day-to-day running of the network across the two counties, and were also jailed, inclujding Demelza Trewartha, 48, from Hayle, who got a two year suspended sentence, Richard Morsley, 43, from Torrington, who got four years and six months, and John Ward, 54, from Dawlish, who got three years.
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John O'Neill, 54, from Exmouth, was a key player in moving three "Exmouth Drug Lines" to and from Liverpool. He was jailed for five years and six months after sending out 13,623 messages in just six months selling heroin and cocaine. In Teignmouth, Benjamin Hopkins, 45, and his partner Joanna Buchannan, 49, were growing cannabis at their home. Buchanan also helped the criminal gang and got a one year suspended sentence.
Hopkins received a two-year suspended sentence for acting as a "warehouser". Cops found nearly £28,000 of cocaine and heroin at their house. The judge noted that some defendants got suspended sentences due to their steps towards rehabilitation.
Detective Chief Inspector Sam Smoothy said: "The level of harm inflicted by this group is significant. They were highly capable placing additional strains on public services. Officers diligently gathered evidence, worked closely with partner agencies, used sophisticated analysis, creative strategies and maintained an adaptability to counter evolving tactics."
* This article was crafted with the help of an AI tool, which speeds up Daily Star's editorial research. An editor reviewed this content before it was published. You can report any errors to [email protected]
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