County lines drug gang jailed for 40 years after taxi driver’s camera records conversations

·3 min read

Watch: County lines cocaine gang jailed after taxi driver they hired recorded their conversations

Ten members of a county lines drug gang have been jailed for a total of 40 years after a taxi driver they hired accidentally recorded their conversations on his dash cam.

The drug ring, dubbed the “Marlow Line”, moved approximately a kilo of crack cocaine and heroin into Derby between 20 March and 22 July last year, Derby Crown Court heard.

The gang also sent more than 8,400 texts out to potential users advertising their services and used addicts’ homes as a base to bully vulnerable young people into selling drugs. 

They eventually were caught when taxi driver Shahid Iqbal, 41, who they paid to transport drugs and dealers around the city, unwittingly recorded their conversations.

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In one clip released by Derbyshire Police, Iqbal tells a boy sitting in the back of the taxi to top up his phone with credit with cash received from a deal.

He then says: “You’ll get used to this one bro … You’ll make some Ps … you’ll make some money on this one … what I tell you innit, you be good with this guy, yeah, he’ll look after you bro.”

The gang were caught when taxi driver Shahid Iqbal, 41, who transported drugs and dealers around the city, unwittingly kept his taxi dash cam and was recorded bragging about their crimes.
From left: Andrew Evaristo, Nana Vandevelde, Sharon Taylor and Cherice Fuller were all jailed. (SWNS)

It also showed Iqbal issuing chilling threats to teenage boys working as runners, warning them they would be beaten if they cost the gang money by not arriving promptly to collect the drugs.

In another clip, Iqbal swears loyalty to gang member Mohammed Haely, who was riding in the back of the taxi.

The driver says: “Like I say, innit, whatever goes on between me and you stays between me and you. Nobody needs to know about nothing, ya get me.”

Watch: More than 1,000 arrests and Class A drugs worth £1m seized as police shut down '10%' of county lines

Haely replies: “Ya see this run here, it’s at least once a day.”

Iqbal then says: “Whenever you need me, anytime, day, night, anytime, ya get me. I’ll be there for you brother.

“You keep me running around, it’s going to put something on my table innit bro.”

As the gang moved into the Stockbrook area, officers became aware of Iqbal using his taxi to transport dealers around the city.

During a series of coordinated warrants and car stops, Iqbal was arrested and his taxi seized.

The gang were caught when taxi driver Shahid Iqbal, 41, who transported drugs and dealers around the city, unwittingly kept his taxi dash cam and was recorded bragging about their crimes.
From left: Grady Mabika-Blessing, Bright Norman, Mandy Hughes, and Mohammed Haely were all jailed for their roles in the gang.

Police ultimately arrested 11 members of the gang, who all admitted their roles in the supply of drugs at Derby Crown Court on 6 May.

Ten members of the gang were then jailed for a total of more than 40 years on Friday.

Ringleader Bright Norman, 25, was jailed for nine and a half years, while his right-hand man Andrew Evaristo, 24, was jailed for seven years and 10 months.

Haely, 22, was jailed for six years and nine months.

Drug runners Nana Vandevelde, 18, and Grady Mabika-Blessing, 21, were jailed for 19 months and three years in prison respectively, while fellow runner Ricky Hollis-Smith, 19, will be sentenced at a later date.

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Cherice Fuller, 28, whose home was used to cut and package the drugs, was jailed for five years.

Sharon Taylor, 35, Gemma Cooper, 36, and Mandy Hughes, 40, whose homes were used to buy and sell the drugs, also admitted being concerned about the supply of class-A drugs.

Hughes was jailed for three years, Taylor was jailed for 15 months and Cooper was sentenced to 15 months suspended for two years.

Earlier this year, a multimillion-pound county lines drugs ring was broken up by police after 72 members were sentenced to more than 221 years combined.

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