North West Regional Organised Crime Unit
 

Operation Maple

Seven people have been sentenced for their part in the largest 'legal high' investigation in the UK with around £4million of drugs sold online.

All seven defendants have been sentenced today, Friday 5th March 2015 at Bolton Crown Court.

Paula White (born 04/10/68) of Stafford Road in Eccles pleaded guilty prior to the trial in November 2014 and sentenced to nine years in prison.

Netta Hymanson (born 16/02/51) of Circular Road in Prestwich was convicted at a trial in November 2014 and sentenced to four in prison.

Sheena Jessop (born 01/02/68) of Barwood Lea Mill, Grants Lane in Ramsbottom was convicted at a trial in November 2014 and sentenced to two years in prison suspended.

Rudie Chiu (born 17/12/88) of Masson Place, Hornbeam way in Manchester was convicted at a trial in November 2014 and sentenced to two years in prison suspended.

Aniello Della Croce (born 08/10/84) of Bowker Vale Gardens in Manchester was convicted at a trial in November 2014 sentenced to eighteen months in prison suspended.

Michaela Doyle (born 16/10/70) of Tenbury Close, Pendleton was convicted at a trial in May 2015 and sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended.

Christian White (born 30/04/76) of Nelson Street, Higher Broughton was convicted at a trial in May 2015 and sentenced to four years in prison.

The latest Titan investigation began in the Channel Island of Jersey and led to the largest legal high investigation in the UK.

The Organised Crime Group involved had international reach and sold multi-million pounds worth of drugs across the globe.

In the summer of 2012 Jersey and the Channel Islands started to see a sharp rise in the amount of drugs purporting to be legal highs coming onto the islands via postal deliveries.

Police and customs began intercepting the postal deliveries and established they had been bought on a website called Wide Mouth Frogs, with most of the packages having been posted from the Greater Manchester area.

Jersey police referred the matter to Titan, who sought to identify the source of the packages that were being sent to Jersey.

The Wide Mouth Frogs website was quickly identified and then a number of similar websites offering similar products and were found in total to be offering 35 different products for sale, all of which purported to be legal and offered enhanced stimulants.

Officers purchased all of these products advertised for sale in order to establish their legal classification, of the items purchased 77% contained illegal drugs classified by the Misuse of Drugs Act, with the majority being Class B drugs.

A surveillance operation captured gang members leaving the post office from where the packages were dispatched on a number of occasions and this led officers to the hub of the drug operation: Drake Mill in Farnworth; a large industrial unit divided into distinct sections with areas for the storage of drugs, freezers, packing areas and postal delivery areas.

Officers swooped in and found a complex set up including the gangs own drug store packed with pre packaged commodities for onward distribution, a pill pressing machine and machinery for packing the drugs into individual deals.

The gang members were arrested in May 2013; Paula White was the head of the organisation and upon searching her house it soon became apparent the extent to which she had profited from her drug business.

She owned a brand new Aston Martin and a house worth £800,000 with a large extension, orangery and a swimming pool under construction as well as a £10 000 dog kennel !

Designer clothing, jewellery, wall mounted high value televisions as well as garden furniture (worth over £25,000) were all amongst items seized by Titan and removed from the property. Further financial investigation revealed that White also owned an opulent villa in Marbella, Spain.

Other gang members included Hymanson (who told the court she had previously been a designer for Karen MILLEN), played a lead role in the trafficking of drugs. Jessop and Chui were also key lynch pins in the investigation with Chui designing and running the Wide Mouth Frogs website together with a further six similar sites that the gang operated.

The gang’s operation was the largest of its kind in the UK with over £4million of drugs sold, 200 kilos of which were sold through the Wide Mouth Frogs website alone. Coupled with other sites officers identified sales to nearly every country across the globe with around 90,000 sales and 18,500 registered customers on the Wide Mouth Frogs website.

The database was recovered from the website and it identified those who were buying the drugs online. This information led to a national week of action across the UK in November 2013.

This was aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of taking drugs often referred to as ‘legal highs’. The week of action saw 76 warrants executed, 45 people arrested, 309 personal visits by the police to heavy users and 608 letters sent to people warning them of the dangers associated with taking these drugs.

During the investigation TITAN established that a man had sadly lost his life to the effects of ‘legal highs.’ Grant Wooldridge died in July 2012 after taking drugs which he had purchased days before his death from the Wide Mouth Frogs website. The purchase of these drugs were found to have contributed to his death.

A family member described the effect Grant’s death had on the family as “I was absolutely devastated by Grants death, he was my older brother. I am still not over losing him. I spent a lot of time crying and he remains always on my mind, my other brother was hugely affected by what happened he has become ill as a result of what happened to Grant.

“The person mostly affected by Grants death was our dad who is 74 years old, he and Grant were very close they would work and socialise together, he will never be over it, it hit him like a bomb, he does not sleep at night and his nerves are in bits. I know he goes to tend Grants grave 3 to 4 times a week. He will never get over what has happened.

“I believe that Grant died from taking products from the Wide Mouth Frog Website. These ‘legal highs’ are destroying families and people’s lives and what has happened to Grant is an example of that. Clearly people have no idea what they are buying or how dangerous they were. Knowing Grant he would not have taken them if he thought they were dangerous.”

Detective Superintendent Jason Hudson, head of operations for Titan, The North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, said: "This case highlighted a number of issues for Titan. Firstly that 77% of the commodities sold as 'Legal Highs' on the Wide Mouth frogs website were in fact controlled drugs and anyone caught with these drugs could face prosecution.

"Secondly the serious health implications a number of people reported from taking these drugs.

At no stage did this gang test any of the drugs sold online, when certain compounds were made illegal they mixed them with other products and had no idea what the effects would be.

"Our message is clear: taking these commodities is like playing Russian roulette with your life, there is no way of knowing what they contain or whether they are safe.

"We know that drugs purchased from the Wide Mouth Frogs website have contributed to the death of one man and hospitalised a number of others.

"This case once again highlights just what a lottery it is for your health if you choose to take drugs such as these."

Convicted

Paula White

Paula White

9 years

Netta Hymanson

Netta Hymanson

4 Years

Christian White

Christian White

4 years