Drug dealer who ran county line jailed after admitting trafficking children

Zakaria Mohammed exploited children as young as 14 to deal Class A drugs from depraved flats in Lincoln. Credit: West Midlands Police

A drug dealer who trafficked children and kept them in squalid conditions to sell drugs has been jailed.

Zakaria Mohammed exploited children as young as 14 to deal Class A drugs from dingy flats in Lincoln.

Mohammed, who is from Aston in Birmingham, ran a narcotics supply chain and admitted trafficking two boys and a girl to deal on his behalf.

The children, aged 14 and 15, had been reported missing from Birmingham and Mohammed was busted after two missing boys were found in a flat in Lincoln.

It's the first time a police force in the UK has secured child trafficking convictions under the Modern Slavery Act as part of a county lines operation.

County lines is where gangs recruit children from cities and send them to the country to sell drugs. They are often groomed with the false promise of money but kept in squalid conditions.

CCTV from Birmingham New Street station showed Mohammed buying train tickets for two children to travel to Lincoln in March. Credit: West Midlands Police

Mohammed, who is 21, raked in £500 a day by organising the sale of crack cocaine and heroin from premises in Lincoln, which were raided earlier this year.

A surveillance operation then picked up Mohammed making regular trips from Birmingham to Foster Street Lincoln. He was regularly accompanied by children.

His car was then seized for having no insurance in February. In it, they found a phone used to run the drugs line and school clothing belonging to a missing child from Birmingham.

The Foster Street flat was raided after Lincolnshire Police recorded video evidence of children passing drugs to punters - often completing deals every 10 or 15 minutes.

Three missing 15-year-old boys were found in the one bed flat, along with a stash of heroin and crack cocaine. Two zombie knives were also found.

Drugs, money and knives were found at various properties linked to Mohammed in Lincoln. Credit: West Midlands Police

Mohammed, from Trinity Road in Aston, pleaded guilty to four counts of possessing drugs with intent to supply and five counts of human trafficking.

Jailing him for 14 years, Judge Nicholas Webb said: "The fact is the children were being taken away for days or weeks, exposed to potential danger in a squalid environment."

Afterwards, Detective Constable Max Gebhard from West Midlands Police said: "The 'Castro' drugs line number was changed four times in a bid to avoid detection by the police.

"Each time a mass text message would be sent out to its scores of users alerting them to the new number on which to place orders - and when those orders came in Mohammed would contact the children to fulfil the deals.

"This is a hugely significant conviction for West Midlands Police and law enforcement as a whole across the UK. It shows that we can go after county lines offenders not just for drug supply but also under trafficking legislation due to them exploiting children."

For help and advice on the issue of county lines visit the Crime Stoppers website.