Group jailed for importing 30kg of cannabis into UK labelled as ‘wheels’

Tuesday, 15th January 2019

SIX men and a woman who organised the importation of 30kg of cannabis into the UK from Germany have been jailed. 

The court heard the cannabis, valued at £125,000, which was destined for the streets of south Staffordshire, had been packed in a crate labelled as ‘wheels’ in a bid to avoid detection. 

At the head of the Organised Crime Group (OCG) was Christopher Burns, aged 41, of Burntwood, and Andrew Lillis, aged 49, of Coventry, who were responsible for the organisation, acquisition and distribution of the drugs into south Staffordshire. 

Burns is already serving a sentence of 12 years for importation of cocaine with a street value of £202,000 following a trial at Birmingham Crown Court in October 2017. He received two further 10-month sentences to be served concurrently. 

Lillis is already serving 27 years for his involvement with the importation of 45kg of heroin and conspiracy to supply 200kg of cannabis. He received two further 12-month sentences to be served concurrently. 

The court heard that between July and November 2014 Burns used the alias Steven Dixon and a legitimate company name to contact a logistics company and arrange shipments of freight from Barcelona and the Netherlands to the UK. 

During December 2014 and January 2015 Errol Smith flew to the Netherlands and David Woodings and another man hired a van and travelled across. However, the shipping company contacted Burns to tell him they had established the legitimate company name (fraudulently used by Burns) had no requirement for freight shipping and as a result they refused to accept Burns’s order. 

Burns then used the alias Steven Wallace to arrange shipment from Osnabruck in Germany to the UK. In early February Woodings flew to Germany and back and travelled again on 9 February 2015, this time with Amy Harris, where the pair hired a van. 

On 11 February 2015 a consignment in a crate described as ‘wheels’ arrived in the UK from Osnabruck, Germany. The parcel was intercepted by Staffordshire Police detectives at a depot in Berkshire and, upon closer inspection, two cardboard boxes were found to contain 30 parcels wrapped in brown parcel tape, each weighing approximately 1kg each. 

Each 1kg package contained cannabis vegetation, representing a total street value of around £125,500. 

A fingerprint on the barcode attached to the parcel matched Woodings’ right forefinger. As Woodings and Harris arrived back at Stansted Airport search warrants were executed at ten addresses across Staffordshire and the West Midlands. 

Drugs seized at these addresses included cocaine, MDMA and cannabis. Further forensic and telephone analysis, as well as surveillance footage, linked the other members of the group. 

Detective Inspector Pete Cooke, of Staffordshire Police’s Major and Organised Crime department, said: “This has been a lengthy and protracted investigation spanning Europe, so we’re delighted to have secured convictions. 

“Officers have worked diligently and meticulously to tease out a tangled web of criminality stretching from Germany and the Netherlands to the UK. We trust this sends out a clear message to criminals: do not attempt to import drugs and prey on the vulnerable in Staffordshire. If you do, wherever you are, we will find you.” 

Burns pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cannabis and conspiracy to fraudulently evade the prohibition on the importation of cannabis at an earlier hearing. 

Woodings, Lillis, Smith, Harris and Lyndon were found guilty of the importation of cannabis. 

Lillis, Smith and Lyndon were found guilty of conspiracy to supply cannabis. 

Horton was found guilty of breaching a serious crime prevention order. 

Christopher Burns, aged 41, of Hill Street, Burntwood, received two 10-month sentences to be served concurrently. 

Andrew Lillis, aged 49, of High Beech, Allsey Green, Coventry, received two 12-month sentences to be served concurrently. 

Errol Smith, aged 44, of Lymesy Street, Coventry, was sentenced to 4 years. 

Richard Lyndon, aged 43, of Cannock Road, Burntwood, was sentenced 3 years 6 months with a further 28 days to serve concurrently (for possession of MDMA). 

Amy Harris, aged 28, of Blackberry Lane, Coventry, was sentenced to 2 years suspended for 18 months. 

Robert Horton, aged 51, of Church Road, Norton Canes, Cannock, sentenced to eight months suspended for 18 months. 

David Woodings, aged 41, of Blackberry Lane, Coventry, was given a two-year sentence suspended for 18 months.