A drug dealer who claimed he was a key worker when police stopped his car at the height of the coronavirus lockdown had £55k worth of cocaine in the vehicle.
Benjamin Evans, 26, had donned a high-vis jacket to go on a 280-mile journey posing as an essential highways official when an unmarked police car pulled him over on the A40 near Brecon, Wales, on 6 April.
After police found the haul of almost 500g of high-purity cocaine, he joked: "I'm a kilo worker not a key worker."
Swansea Crown Court heard that Evans, pulled over in a Ford Focus hire car, claimed he was a road worker with Forest Traffic Management, saying: "What’s the problem, boys? I've just finished a night shift."
The court heard that an analysis of Evans’s phone and bank transactions revealed him to be a large-scale drug dealer – supplying cocaine, valium, ketamine, ecstasy and cannabis, much of it to other suppliers further down the chain.
Craig Jones, prosecuting, said Evans, of Pontardawe, was stopped at 10.30am on 6 April near Brecon after a run to the Birmingham area.
Jones said a suspicious officer checked his story – and discovered it was a ruse.
"He was attempting to use key worker status as a cover for his criminal activity during the course of the coronavirus pandemic,” Jones said.
A package wrapped in brown tape was recovered from the car containing 495g of cocaine, worth an estimated £55,000.
In the six months before his arrest, police found, he had used five different hire cars as well as his own Range Rover Evoque to make a dozen drug supply runs from his home in the Swansea Valley to places including the Birmingham area.
Financial investigators found that between 2013 and 2020 a total of £214,762 was paid into his bank – while his legitimate salary was just £60,724.
Evans pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to supply, and to supplying cocaine, ketamine, Valium and cannabis.
James Hartson, for Evans, said he was "deeply ashamed" of his actions.
Jailing Evans for eight years, Judge Huw Rees told him he had claimed to be a key worker when stopped but in fact had been "no such thing".
Judge Rees said: "You were involved in the selfish pursuit of making substantial amounts of money trafficking five kinds of drugs without a thought to the degradation and misery caused to users.”
The judge said Evans was a "key figure in drugs supply in the Swansea Valley and beyond", and was involved in the buying and selling of drugs on a commercial scale.
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During the lockdown, reports said the price of street drugs in London went up because of the extra risk of being pulled over because of the lockdown.
Sky News said many street dealers had stopped selling drugs because police were checking more vehicles on the roads in accordance with "stay home" advice.
Messages from dealers seen by the broadcaster showed how the price of drugs had dropped in the run-up to the coronavirus lockdown because dealers wanted to get rid of stock.