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8 January 2013, 14:20
Eight men have been sentenced to almost 40 years in jail as part of a huge drugs operation on Tyneside.
The operation, named Operation Vegas, was launched in March 2012 by Northumbria Police's Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
The aim of Op Vegas was to target and disrupt those involved in the supply of drugs in the Tyneside area.
The operation focused around Robert Eric Blackburn.
Intelligence on Blackburn led officers to believe that he was heavily involved in the large scale dealing of illegal drugs across the force area and further afield.
SOCU focused on Blackburn for a number of months and, in August this year, the intelligence gathered meant he could be arrested and charged with conspiracy to supply drugs.
During the proactive operation Blackburn was seen to work alongside a number of individuals in his dealings.
Nine other men were arrested along with Blackburn for being involved in drug dealing.
During the operation around £150,000 in cash was recovered from various addresses across the force area.
Two motor boats and two caravans were seized along with nine motor vehicles.
In total 1.5kg of cocaine, 10.5kg of amphetamine and 10,100 BZP tablets were seized during the operation.
At Newcastle Crown Court on Monday, January 7, the men were sentenced to:
* Robert Eric Blackburn, 64, of Hallow Drive, Throckley, was jailed for 11 years for conspiracy to supply cocaine and conspiracy to supply BZP
* David John French, 58, of Ulswater Crescent, Winlaton, was jailed for seven years for conspiracy to supply cocaine and conspiracy to supply BZP
* Alan Atkinson, 44, of Hallow Drive, Throckley, was jailed for six years for conspiracy to supply cocaine
* Alan Bullock, 49, of Tindles Caravan Park, Longframlington, was jailed for six years for conspiracy to supply cocaine.
* Alan James Bell, 33, of Falstone Avenue / Centurion Road, Denton, was jailed for two years for entering into a money laundering arrangement in relation to a sum of not less than £146,000 contrary to section 328(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
* James Bell, 29, of Linbridge Drive, West Denton, was jailed for two years for conspiring to transfer criminal property
* Robert William Cann, 35 of Kendrick Street, Stoke-on-Trent, was jailed for two years for conspiracy to supply amphetamine
* Brian William Carrier 37, of Harehills Tower, Kenton, was sentenced to three years and eight months for conspiracy to supply amphetamine
Detective Sergeant Dave Hamill, from the Northumbria Police Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said:
"We welcome the sentences handed out to these men - it means a number of dangerous individuals involved in the dealing and distribution of large amounts of drugs are off the street for a considerable amount of time.
Vegas was a meticulously planned and executed operation that involved skilled officers carrying out detailed investigation of a number of targets. "While focusing on Blackburn we were able to uncover a web of contacts that he was working with to sell and distribute drugs. We were able to make a number of arrests and seize drugs, as well as money made through drug dealing.
These convictions should serve as a warning to anyone involved in the dealing of illegal drugs that they could face lengthy prison sentences. "We are committed to taking serious drugs from our streets and we will continue to target those involved with the dealing and distribution of drugs in our communities."