Drug smugglers who ran a £30million drugs ring from Stoke-on-Trent have been jailed for a total of 100 years.
The 12 criminals smuggled the cutting agent benzocaine from China, disguised as decorating materials.
Between 2015 and 2016 the gang smuggled enough benzocaine to produce 850kg of medium-strength cocaine.
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Detective Inspector Lesley Fowler said: “Benzocaine is relatively inexpensive, but when used to dilute cocaine it is an integral part of a multi-million pound supply chain.
“This was a sophisticated and highly-organised operation supplying drugs nationwide.”
Staffordshire Police’s Major and Organised Crime department launched an investigation in November 2015 when a package of benzocaine was intercepted by customs at Coventry Airport.
The investigation culminated in a seizure of 30.76kg of benzocaine addressed to the home of Karen Broad, 54, and Andrew Fradley, 50 of Stoke-on-Trent.
'Substantial expectation of gain'
The gang smuggled benzocaine from China in packages marked as "decorating materials". Image: SWNS
The court heard that the gang members referred to themselves as ‘Coke-on-Trent’ and would often collect packages under the name of “Charlie”, slang for cocaine.
Judge Dean Kershaw told Broad and Fradley: “You had substantial links to others and substantial expectation of gain.”
The pair received the longest sentences of the gang members, with Broad given 15 years and Fradley 17-and-a-half years.
The ten other gang members received sentences of between 24 months and 14 years.