North West Regional Organised Crime Unit
 

Operation Kopis

North-West Gang caught in Titan's Biggest Drugs Seizure Jailed for 83 Years

A gang who hid huge amounts of drugs inside vehicle tyres and used a safe house to store drugs in fridge freezers to avoid detection has been jailed for 83 years after an investigation by ‘Titan’, the North-west’s regional organised crime unit.

The organised crime group, led by John McMahon and Phillip Dyer from Liverpool, were caught moving cocaine to the West Yorkshire area. They also moved Ecstasy, amphetamine and cocaine to other organised criminals in Merseyside.

The gang were caught after Titan officers followed McMahon first to a flat in Lowbridge Court in Garston then to a meeting in a café on October 2nd with co-conspirator Colin Rafferty from Huyton. A large bag full of drugs was exchanged. Rafferty was then observed driving in his Ford Fiesta to 1st Class Tyres in Brickfields, Huyton and carrying a holdall inside.

When Titan and Merseyside Police officers raided the business minutes later they found Rafferty and another gang member, Paul Morris, stuffing large packages of drugs into the cavity between a tyre and a wheel rim.

During the police’s search of the tyre garage, business owner Edward McCabe was spotted driving suspiciously slowly past the crime scene and when officers stopped him nearby in his car he was found trying to hide a mobile phone which detectives later found had been used to contact Rafferty and connected him to the seizure of the drugs.

Investigators concluded that McCabe’s garage was being used to store and organise the onward distribution of Class A and B drugs. In total, 20,000 Ecstasy tablets, 1kg of cocaine and 4kg of amphetamine were found at 1st Class Tyres. Titan officers quickly arrested McMahon, who had last been seen handing the holdall of drugs to Rafferty. They found him driving back home to Vauxhall in north Liverpool. On him were keys to the flat in Lowbridge Court in Garston. When they searched the flat they found what has become one of Titan’s biggest ever drug seizures – nearly 100kg of amphetamine and M-cat worth an estimated £2 million hidden in fridges and holdalls within the premises.

A month later, on November 12, 2015, a series of co-ordinated strikes in Merseyside, North Wales and West Yorkshire resulted in Dyer and his taxi driver courier, John Hinnigan from Kirkdale being arrested along with three others.

Titan had first started investigating the gang in July 2015 when Dyer was seen meeting McMahon in various non-descript places in Liverpool to discuss drug deals. The pair enlisted the help of Hinnigan who used his grey Hackney taxi to act as a drugs courier without, the gang believed, attracting the attention of the authorities.

However when courier Dean Davies, from West Yorkshire was seen meeting with Dyer in Liverpool, the links between the suppliers in Merseyside and a crime group in West Yorkshire were identified. Davies was stopped by police after the meeting with Dyer and was found with 1kg of high purity cocaine in his car. Further investigation identified that another gang member, Michael Smith from Ormskirk in Lancashire, had met with Davies the day before and had been involved in arranging the supply of the cocaine with Dyer.

The loss of the drugs prompted a meeting between a suspect from Yorkshire to travel to Liverpool himself to meet Dyer in Stanley Park in August. McMahon, Dyer and Hinnigan passed more drugs to another courier, Brian Laughlin from Irby in Wirral. But the cocaine was intercepted and Laughlin was arrested.

Within an hour of Laughlin’s arrest, Hinnigan and Dyer supplied a similar packet of cocaine to John Myles who came to Liverpool from his home in Ramsbottom near Bury in Greater Manchester. The transaction took place in Vulcan Street near the city centre but police followed Myles and a female associate along the M62 and arrested them in Cheshire. Myles tried to run away, leaving his girlfriend and the drugs in the car, but patrols caught him hiding in undergrowth nearby.

Speaking after nine of the 9 defendants were jailed at Liverpool Crown Court on Friday 29th August, Detective Inspector David Keegan, the senior investigating officer in Operation ‘Kopis’ said: “Titan has thoroughly dismantled this organised crime group and stopped huge amounts of illegal drugs reaching the streets where they can do so much damage and harm.

"Through some carefully planned and professionally executed interventions, we succeeded in catching the gang in the act meaning they faced overwhelming evidence against them. John McMahon and Phillip Dyer were instrumental in organising and leading the others so it was a big result for us to find such a large amount of drugs in McMahon’s flat in Garston. They used McCabe’s tyre fitting garage as a clearing house for some the drugs. Their willingness to hide the drugs inside tyres and fridges shows how desperate they were not to be caught and that they knew the consequences if they were. Unfortunately for them, that is exactly what happened."

Head of Titan, Detective Chief Superintendent Chris Green, added: “Titan exists to tackle and take down the most serious, hardened and organised criminals who pose the more serious threat to the communities throughout our region.

"This case, which has links from Merseyside into Lancashire, Cheshire, Manchester and Yorkshire, shows what we can achieve by working with local police forces to share intelligence, resources and expertise. I would like to thank all the officers who were involved in the investigation and the arrest phase of the operation as well as our colleagues in the Crown Prosecution Service for their dedication and professionalism. Thanks to them a determined group of criminals who sought to line their own pockets from causing untold misery to many others are now behind bars.

"These prison sentences should serve as a warning to others involved in, or thinking about becoming involved in. serious organised crime. There is no hiding place, we will catch you and you will go to prison for a long time."

The nine defendants and their sentences are as follows:


John Michael McMahon, aged 45, of Titchfield Street, Vauxhall, Liverpool - 13 years and 4 months.


Phillip Dyer, aged 53, of Reading Street, Kirkdale, Liverpool - 10 years and 10 months.


John Hinnigan, aged 53, of Christmas Street, Kirkdale, Liverpool - 6 years and 8 months.


Brian Laughlin, aged 33, of Glenwood Drive, Irby, Wirral - 4 years.


John Myles, aged 22, of Square Street, Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester - 3 years and 4 months.


Edward Francis McCabe, aged 37, of Linden Drive, Huyton - 12 years (plus another 4 months for unrelated drugs offences).


Colin Rafferty, aged 29, of Hillside Avenue, Huyton - 6 years and 8 months (plus another 21 months for unrelated drugs offences).


Paul Morris, aged 30, of Longview Lane, Huyton - 4 years and 8 months.


Michael Smith, aged 51, of Standhouse Lane, Ormskirk, Lancashire - 12 years.


Paul Wilby, aged 47, from Leeds Road, Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire - sentenced after appearing at Liverpool Crown Court on 12th December 2016 - 10 years imprisonment.


Sentenced previously:

Dean Davies, from West Yorkshire -

jailed for 87 months on 9th October 2015 at Bradford Crown Court.

Convicted

John McMahon

John McMahon

13 Yrs 4 mths

Michael Smith

Michael Smith

12 Yrs

Edward McCabe

Edward McCabe

12 Yrs

Philip Dyer

Philip Dyer

10 Yrs 8 mths

John Hinnigan

John Hinnigan

6 Yrs 8 mths

Colin Rafferty

Colin Rafferty

6 Yrs 8 mths

Paul Morris

Paul Morris

4 Yrs 8 mths

Brain Laughlin

Brain Laughlin

4 Years

John Myles

John Myles

3 Yrs 4 mths

Paul Wilby

Paul Wilby

10 Years