1. ITV Report

Merseyside crime gang leader who used 'fear and intimidation' to deal drugs throughout the country jailed

Liam Cornett has been jailed for 26 years. Credit: Merseyside Police

The head of a crime gang who exploited vulnerable people to sell drugs has been jailed for 26 years.

Liam Cornett, 29, from Huyton, was sentenced along with 27 other offenders involved in a large-scale drug dealing network, that stretched as far as Devon and Cornwall.

In total, the 28 criminals have been jailed for a total of 218 years and four months.

Cornett ran the network along with Micheal Rice, 26, from Liverpool and Kieran Eves, 28, from Hale, were jailed for 18 years and 13 years respectively.

Left: Kieran Eves and Michael Rice. Credit: Merseyside Police

Merseyside Police said that the three men used fear and intimidation to sell crack cocaine, heroin and amphetamine.

An investigation was launched into the gang after a grenade exploded at a property in Dingle in March 2017, a search of the house led police to discover 160kg of amphetamines and 11kg of heroin.

Watch Rob Smith's report here:

Following surveillance by Merseyside Police, Devon and Cornwall Police, South Wales Police and Humberside Police, arrests were made in late 2017.

Police say that members of the group were monitored paying for expensive cars with cash, and filmed selling drugs to undercover officers in a series of stings which helped secure their convictions.

One of the weapons seized during the operation. Credit: Merseyside Police

On his arrest, Cornett himself was wearing a Rolex watch valued at around £55,000.

He has also been pictured driving a Bentley in Monaco throwing cash he won in a casino into the air.

Credit: Merseyside Police

Detective Inspector Paul McVeigh said: "Today marks the end of one of the longest and most extensive investigations ever undertaken by North West Regional Organised Crime Unit."

He added: "We were able to present to the court a wealth of damning evidence of their activities and I want to take this opportunity to thank all those officers involved.

"They have made the streets safer and we should all be grateful for that.

"Undercover officers observed them meeting to arrange for drugs to be dealt around Merseyside and transported further afield, and officers intercepted attempts to take cash overseas intended to supplement Cornett’s lifestyle."

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Merseyside Police Assistant Chief Constable Ian Critchley said: "Drug dealers often use violence and intimidation, and firearms to try to keep themselves in business.

"Merseyside and indeed other areas of the country are a safer place now that this group are behind bars."

Drugs found by police during their investigation. Credit: Merseyside Police