Drugs gang who created 'atmosphere of fear' jailed for more than 50 years

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A gang of 13 people have been jailed for more than 50 years for importing cocaine into the Cotswolds.

Undercover officers from Gloucestershire Police watched the ringleaders for six months to build the case which has now seen 13 people behind bars for their involvement in a Stroud-based drugs conspiracy. 

The lead detective says the drug dealers had created an "atmosphere of fear and intimidation" as they brought a "shocking" amount of drugs into the area.

The group appeared at Bristol Crown Court on Friday 23 April and received a combined sentence of 52 years.

The investigation saw Serious and Organised Crime Unit officers conduct covert enquiries which allowed them to gather evidence against the offenders and prove their involvement in supplying more than 3kg of class A drugs. 

The conspiracy was led by 36-year-old Andrew Venna and 32-year-old Lee Fisher who co-ordinated the gang. 

Andrew Venna (left) and Lee Fisher Credit: Gloucestershire Police

Surveillance showed the pair met on a number of occasions during the summer of 2018 and also had regular conversations via text and phone calls. 

In August 2018 police followed the pair to the McDonald's car park at Cribbs Causeway where they say a significant meeting occurred.

Officers observed them walking around the car park for half an hour before leaving. Police say they were arranging for drugs to be sent from Gloucester to Dursley.

Police say the Cribbs Causeway car park meeting was significant. Credit: Gloucestershire Police

Venna had an additional six months added to his previous sentence after being found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine.

Fisher was sentenced to six years and nine months after pleading to two counts of conspiracy to supply cocaine. 

Matthew Cornwall, 36, worked in conjunction with Venna and Fisher to co-ordinate the supply of drugs with Albanian couriers from London and then distributed them to local drug dealers. 

Matthew Cornwall Credit: Gloucestershire Police

Telephony work showed Cornwall co-ordinated with Venna before liaising with couriers for the local level suppliers.

Cornwall had an additional six months added to his previous sentence after being found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine. 

Father and daughter duo 50-year-old Steven West and 29-year-old Diane Straszewska came next in the conspiracy following their involvement in organising and distributing to Fisher's supply chain. 

The father and daughter were filmed by police at a Gloucestershire drive-thru waiting for a deal. Credit: Gloucestershire Police

In June 2018 a warrant and significant arrest was made at their home address in Acacia Drive in Dursley.

The property was found to be a base used by Lee Fisher to co-ordinate the supply of cocaine. 

The majority of this money was heavily contaminated with drugs and mobile phones seized from them evidenced they were active in the supply of cocaine. 

Father and daughter Steven West and Diane Straszewska. Credit: Gloucestershire Police

West was sentenced to six years and nine months after pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy to supply Cocaine and Straszewska received the same sentence after being found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine. 

Mother and son Tracey and Andrew Holdsworth, aged 56 and 36 respectively, were significant to the organisation and distribution of Lee Fisher's supply chain.

They worked in a management function for supplying to dealers and also lived at the Acacia Drive property.

They acted as the ‘custodians’ of money made from supplying and supported Fisher in obtaining more drugs to sell. 

Tracey and Andrew Holdsworth Credit: Gloucestershire Police

Andrew was sentenced to five years and nine months and Tracey was sentenced to four years after both being found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine. 

Danny Fisher, 35, brother of Lee Fisher, played a significant role in distributing to dealers. 

On regular occasions he acted on instructions from his brother before liaising with Steven West and Diane Straszewska in overseeing the money the group were owed from drug users. 

In July 2018 surveillance officers, who were hiding in a tree to go unseen, captured a meeting between Danny, Steven West and Diane Straszewska. 

Surveillance footage taken as officers hid behind a tree. Credit: Gloucestershire Police

He was arrested having left the property with a bag containing money, drugs and drug debt lists showing who owed how much money and how many ounces of cocaine

He also communicated to his brother who provided instructions from drug rehab in Luton. 

At least two previously-used 1kg wrappings were found by the side of the shed at the address.

Danny Fisher has been jailed. Credit: Gloucestershire Police

Several drug lists were recovered from the address showing others involved in drug supply. 

He was sentenced to five years after pleading to conspiracy to supply cocaine. 

Rhys Pulley, 28, and Yasmin Anya-Maria Lean, 48, worked with Steven West and Lee Fisher to obtain quantities of drugs which were distributed to users across the county.

Rhys Pulley and Yasmin Anya-Maria Lean Credit: Gloucestershire Police

Lean had strong links with Lee Fisher, the Holdsworths', Steven West and Diane Straszewska.

Recovered messages showed she had a large customer base and offered assistance to others. 

Lean was sentenced to five years while Pulley was sentenced to six years. They both pleaded guildy to conspiracy to supply cocaine and possession with intent to supply cocaine. 

Jamie Griffey, 28, Zak Hearle, 23, and Steven Pace, 29, also worked alongside Lean in dealing to Lee Fisher's supply chain in the Stroud and Dursley areas.

Between 18 July and 26 October 2018, six key events took place and were organized between Rhys Pulley with Matthew Cornwall and involved Matthew Cornwall meeting Steven Pace and Zak Hearle. 

Jamie Griffey (left) and Zak Hearle Credit: Gloucestershire Police

Griffey was sentenced to four years, Hearle was sentenced to three years and Pace was sentenced to 21 months suspended for two years after pleading to conspiracy to supply Cocaine. 

Chief Inspector Ian Fletcher told ITV News the amount of drugs coming into the small town was "shocking", adding: "It's driven by the demand and it's for people to understand and recognise drug dealers are making significant quantities of money out of drug dealing but they're also causing absolute chaos in people's communities, in people's lives.

"Drug dealers can live a glamorous lifestyle - but they also live with that continuous fear the police will catch them."

He added: "Drug dealers, they create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in their local community. People don't necessarily want to speak about them or if they do speak about them, they don't want to go on record - they don't want to stand in a witness box and give evidence against people.

"It's those scenarios where more traditional policing methods have failed.

"That's where surveillance steps in and we will look to develop and understand the crimes that are being committed by those people."

Chief Inspector Ian Fletcher said he hopes the sentencing will show people involved in drug dealing they are "not untouchable or above the law".

He said: "We are extremely pleased with the court result but our work will not stop there, our commitment to our communities means that we will do our very best to bring the most serious offenders to justice." 

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