Ex-footballer Shylo Thomas ran County Lines drug operation – and recruited kids as street dealers
Written by The Newsroom on November 6, 2019
An ex-footballer who ran a County Lines drug operation using teenagers to flood Staffordshire with heroin and crack cocaine has been jailed.
Shylo Thomas – described as ‘aggressive and intimidating’ – recruited vulnerable kids as young as 15 as street dealers to travel from Birmingham to Burton and Rugeley, where they were made to deal Class A drugs for cash.
These dealers were cut off from their families, made to stay in the homes of local drug users or squat elsewhere- a process known as ‘cuckooing’ in the County Lines trade.
(Image: Staffordshire Police)
Thomas, together with five other men and a teenager who all hail from Birmingham, pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy to supply heroin and cocaine .
Stafford Crown Court heard that a total of 1.5kg of class-A drugs was moved from August 2017 to February 2018.
Thomas – who played for Walsall FC as a youngster – ran the network of street dealers in Burton upon Trent and Rugeley, detailing their income, rent payments and shift patterns in a handwritten ledger.
Thomas, 28, and Malachi Mitchell, 26, used two mobile phones which sent out up to 80 texts per day to run their operation, referring to themselves as ’Turbo.’
Drug-users would place an order with one of the lines and Thomas and Mitchell would then direct their street dealers, remotely, to meet the user and carry out the transaction.
The dealers were transported from Birmingham to Burton and Rugeley where it was their responsibility to meet users and supply them with heroin or cocaine for money.
These dealers were given accommodation in Burton and Rugeley by Thomas, which was either home addresses of local drug users or by occupying premises as squatters.
Detectives gathered evidence from CCTV, mobile phones, forensic examinations and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR).
Thomas was arrested on February 20, 2018 and detectives found one of the ‘Turbo’ phones and a further phone belonging to a 15-year-old girl that he was exploiting as a ‘street dealer’ in Burton.
Mitchell was arrested at his home address in April 2018 in possession of heroin and crack cocaine.
Detective Sergeant Jim Byrne, from Staffordshire Police , said: “We’re glad this conspiracy, which was highly organised, has been brought to an end and this group are now serving their sentences.
“We will not tolerate drug-dealing in Staffordshire and, following on from a number of successful convictions across the county, we will continue to bring offenders before the courts.”
Judge Jonathan Salmon said: “This was a difficult case and considerable time and expertise was demonstrated by the officers who investigated.
“It is a tragedy to see such exploitation of the young.”
The following all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin:
Thomas of Hutton Road, Handsworth, Birmingham, was jailed for 10 years seven months
Mitchell of Leasow Drive, Edgbaston, Birmingham, was jailed for three years seven months.
Callum Murphy, aged 19, of Arthur Street, Small Heath, Birmingham, sentenced to 22 months; he has already served this on remand and receives a 12-month community order, two-month curfew
Troy Farquharson, aged 24, of Francis Road, Yardley, Birmingham, sentenced to three years, including pleading guilty to a burglary
Kieron Smith, aged 19, of Tame Avenue, Castle Bromwich, Birmingham , sentenced to two years suspended for 18 months, community order, four-month curfew and 150 hours’ unpaid work
Rayees Ali, aged 18, of Marsh Lane, Erdington, Birmingham, sentenced to 12-month community order, four-month curfew and 120 hours’ unpaid work
A 17-year-old youth from Birmingham, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced to a 12-month community order, four-month curfew and 60 hours’ unpaid work
Atiyyah Gidden, aged 20, of Grosvenor Road, Aston, Birmingham, will be sentenced in December
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