Probe started with routine search of a grandmother at Bridgend's Parc Prison
The discovery of a handful of Subutex tablets during a prison visit led to the conviction of national network of drug dealers, including two mothers and their sons, and the seizure of drugs, cash, sports cars and expensive watches.
A two-year investigation which began with the routine search of a grandmother while she was visiting her son in a south Wales prison has resulted in the imprisonment of 14 people from across the UK for more than 36 years.
On 24th December, 2015, prison officers at Bridgend's Parc Prison seized seven Subutex tablets from Susan Hynes who was attempting to pass them to her son Nathan Hynes during a prison visit.
They contacted officers from South Wales Police who arrested the 56 year-old woman from Merthyr Tydfil and launched Operation Red Hercules which eventually resulted in the conviction of 14 people from areas including Merthyr Tydfil, Swansea and Birmingham, who were all sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court on Friday, January 12, 2018.
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The criminal network began to unravel after police examined a mobile phone seized from Susan Hynes at the time of her arrest in 2015. Text messages made reference to supplying controlled drugs into prison and bank account transactions linked to serving prisoners led officers to a string of other people, including Craig Hynes - her son, Emma Whatmore, and Jodie Powell, all from Merthyr Tydfil.
The investigation snowballed as the analysis of mobile phones and bank statements then resulted in the arrests of Debbie Cullen and Carly Stead, from Swansea, and Nicholas Bradbeer and Jamie Fewtrell, both from Merthyr Tydfil - they were all receiving payments from inmates at Parc Prison.
Inquiries which began in South Wales then led officers to Tara Gaskin in Birmingham. Officers uncovered credits worth more than £100,000 over four years being made into three bank accounts held by her. Further analysis of her bank statements implicated her own son, John Blakeney, and his partner Christina Sperin. Following the arrest of Blakeney at his partner's address, a subsequent search found 242 grams cocaine with a street value of £32,000, digital scales, and a drugs 'tick list'. Despite being unemployed, Sperin was found to have just enjoyed two holidays to Dubai. He also owned expensive watches and a BMW X6 sports car. This property along with cash were seized by officers under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
A financial investigation of Blakeney and Sperin led police to John Gluyas, in Swansea, who was serving a prison sentence in Parc Prison. Following a search, over £32,000 in cash was recovered from a bedroom of a property linked to him in Ravenhill Road. Officers also discovered a cash point receipt in a sock which identified Swansea man Christian Nicholas who was convicted in February, 2016, of throwing a bottle containing Spice into the grounds of Parc Prison.
Police discovered that John Gluyas - who was serving a sentence for conspiracy to supply drugs - continued to orchestrate drugs deals into and out of prison, making large amounts of money from drugs such as Spice and Subutex for which he is able to charge a premium within prison walls. Following a search of his cell a drugs 'tick list' was recovered which revealed that he was involved in the supply of steroids, Subutex and mobile phones into prison. The list represented monetary values into the tens of thousands of pounds.
Detective Inspector Richard Weber, said: "This was a very complex case which involved the examination of dozens of bank accounts and mobile phone bills and it was this work which uncovered the movement of hundreds of thousands of pounds of drug money. I would like to thank Detective Constable Harding for his commitment, diligence, and professionalism.
"I would also like to praise officers at HMP Parc whose initial intervention started this investigation. They have been supportive throughout and these convictions demonstrate how we work closely to tackle the daily threat of drugs in prisons.
"South Wales Police police take the smuggling of contraband into prisons seriously and will follow the evidence wherever it takes us. Operation Red Hercules has resulted in arrests from Llanelli to the West Midlands and underlines our determination to stamp out drugs in our prisons which contributes to violence and places additional stress on other emergency services such as the ambulance service and NHS.
"Ultimately, we must ensure that prisons are a place where inmates can rehabilitate and feel safe from harm, rather than be introduced to drugs so that others can make significant sums of money."
Director for HMP Parc, Janet Wallsgrove, said: "Today's verdicts send a strong message to those who would seek to disrupt the prison's regime by attempting to bring contraband into Parc that they risk facing prison time themselves. This builds on our partnership with South Wales police that has seen eight convictions in the last six months alone.
"Drugs inside any prisons make them less safe for prisoners, who deserve a safe place to live, and staff, who deserve a safe place to work.
"I'd like to thank my team for their vigilance and we will continue to work closely with South Wales police to ensure that anyone who attempts to flout the law by smuggling contraband into Parc is brought to justice."
These are the defendants' sentences:
- Susan HYNES 16 months
- Craig Hynes 12 months
- Jodie Powell 12 months
- Emma Whatmore 12 months
- Debbie Cullen 22 weeks
- Carly Stead 18 weeks
- Nathan Hynes 20 months
- Nicholas Bradbeer 18 months
- Jamie Fewtrell 2 years
- John Gluyas 6.5 years
- John Blakeney 10 years
- Christian Nicholas 5 years
- Tara Gaskin 2.5 years
- Christina Sperin 2.5 years
List of individual convictions:
- Susan HYNES, Nathan HYNES Craig HYNES, Jodie POWELL and Emma WHATMORE pleaded to Conspiracy to Supply Subutex - Class C.
- Susan Hynes also pleaded to Possession of Amphetamine.
- Debbie CULLEN and Carly STEAD pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to convert criminal property.
- Nicholas BRADBEER, Jamie FEWTRELL, John GLUYAS, John BLAKENEY and CHRISTIAN NICHOLAS pleaded to conspiracy to convert criminal property.
- A SCPO Serious Crime Prevention Order has been applied for against John GLUYAS and this will be considered during sentencing.
- Nicholas BRADBEER pleaded guilty to possession of Subutex and Heroin
- Tara GASKIN and Christina SPERIN pleaded not guilty and were found guilty Cardiff Crown Court on 15th November 2017 of conspiracy to convert criminal property.
- John BLAKENEY also pleaded guilty to Possession with the Intent to Supply Cocaine.