Hull landlord who ran multi-million pound drugs empire jailed

Jeremy Southgate drug dealer
Jeremy Southgate

A wealthy landlord who allowed a string of properties to be used as drugs factories in a multi-million pound cannabis conspiracy has been jailed.

Jeremy Southgate, of West Street, Bridlington, bought cheap properties at auction and launched a fake letting agency to manage them.

The 63-year-old allowed an Albanian organised crime gang to take over houses, in Hull, to run a network of 17 cannabis farms producing drugs worth millions of pounds.

Hull Crown Court heard the father-of-two had a vast legitimate income but had also fraudulently obtained two Covid bounce-back loans by over-estimating his actual rental income to help fund the set-up.

Southgate began conspiring with the Eastern European gang in September 2019, when he allowed properties he owned to be used to grow cannabis.

Farms were set up in Blaydes Street, Mappleton Grove; Huntingdon Street, Gipsyville; and Anlaby Road, and The Pines Hotel on Spring Bank among other locations.

In nearly every case electricity had been abstracted and bypassed, causing a risk of fire and possible danger to others living nearby.

Prosecutors said Southgate was a major player in the drugs operation.

Rupert Doswell, prosecuting said: "They were his properties. He used his legitimate business as a cover."

"Ghost tenants" were registered as living in the houses where cannabis was grown.

"Cannabis was produced in industrial quantities for commercial use," Mr Doswell said.

The operation produced an estimated 911kg of cannabis, generating more than £11million a year for the gang.

Police raided several properties, finding substantial amounts of cannabis, cash, and growing equipment.

During a search of a £140,000 boat owned by Southgate, officers recovered more than £50,000 in More than £324,000 in cash and counterfeit identity documents was found at his home.

Southgate's boat was among multiple properties searched by police. Credit: Humberside Police

Alex Menary, mitigating, said Southgate's role was limited to providing the properties.

"The defendant simply did not have enough money, though he had a lot," said Mr Menary. "There is some evidence that the properties were vacant and he was struggling to fill them."

Southgate was found guilty of conspiring to produce class B drugs, money laundering and fraud following a nine-week trial. He was sentenced to 11 year in prison.

Judge Mark Bury said there Southgate was "hoarding" cash and being paid for the use of his properties.

"You were actively involved," he said.

"You were not the head of the organised crime group. There were people who were likely to make a significantly greater return than you, but, nevertheless, you were expecting a substantial financial advantage. You had links to others."

Ervis Mrishaj, Dardan Mrishaj and Florjan Kasaj. Credit: Humberside Police

Three other men were also convicted following the trial.

Albanian asylum seeker, Darden Mrishaj, aged 38, of no fixed abode was jailed for three years.

His 26 year old cousin, Ervis Mrishaj , of Station Road, Whittlesey, was sentenced to for five-and-a-half years.

Florjan Kasaj, 42, of Buckingham Street, Hull, who is Albanian, was sentenced for seven years in prison.

A fourth man, Enver Rrushi, aged 33, from Middlesborough admitted producing cannabis at two of Southgate's properties and was jailed for three years.

Det Con Karen Smith, of Humberside Police, said: "This investigation and disruption into the organised crime group was lengthy and complex but it was only a matter of time before our specialist trained officers dismantled this criminal network. By stopping this gang's activities, we have prevented significant amounts of Class B drugs flooding our streets."

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