Police find multi-million pound Spice factory operating out of Swindon garage

  • Body-worn footage shows the moment one of the group's members was arrested after officers found the garage factory

An organised crime group that imported and exported millions of pounds worth of Spice, and produced it in a Swindon garage have been jailed.

Quyen To, 42, of William Morris Way in Swindon, was the central figure in the group responsible for the import, export and production of class B synthetic cannabinoids, known as Spice.

He was sentenced to 16 years in prison at Bristol Crown Court, after pleading guilty to the charges.

The investigation began in the summer of 2020 when UK Border Force intercepted 4kg of Spice crystals destined for properties owned by or associated with Quyen To.

At his home, officers from South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SWROCU) uncovered a drug production factory in the garage.

Paraphernalia associated with the production of Spice, including marshmallow leaf, rat poison, and sweet flavourings, were also found in the garage.

Quyen To pleaded guilty and has been jailed for 16 years. Credit: South West Regional Organised Crime Unit

Quyen To’s nephew, Rio Nguyen, who was just 17 at the time, was arrested at the scene.

He was wearing a respiratory mask and preparing the drugs for onward supply. Also inside the garage were black bags full of prepared Spice ready to be exported.

In total, 40 kilos of class B drugs were seized from Quyen To’s home, as well as computers, phones and receipts which showed he had been distributing a large number of packages around the world.

Investigators were able to prove Quyen To had been helped by a network of friends, family and acquaintances for many years, including his estranged wife Kati To, 42, from Wiltshire, his sister Vicky To, 40 from London, and Michael Clarke, 58, from London.

Clarke, who received parcels containing Spice from China on behalf of Quyen To, was found guilty of importation and conspiracy to supply class B drugs and handed seven years.

Inside the garage where drugs were produced for supply across the world. Credit: South West Regional Organised Crime Unit

Vicky To was found guilty of importation, exportation and supply of class B drugs and was sentenced to six years in prison.

Quyen To’s nephew, Rio, who was packing and sending drugs abroad was given two years and two months for exportation and supply of class B drugs.

Kati To, who made payments abroad on behalf of her estranged husband, previously pleaded guilty to money laundering and received a ten-month sentence suspended for 12 months as well as 40 hours of unpaid work.

DI Claire Smith said: “This has been a lengthy investigation with officers having to make significant digital and financial enquiries both in the UK and overseas.

“Quyen To and his accomplices have shown utter disregard for human life having manufactured and distributed vast quantities of Spice around the world.

"The activities and criminality of this group were driven by greed and financial gain and I am pleased to see significant prison sentences have been handed down.

“SWROCU will continue to relentlessly disrupt serious and organised crime and the convictions in this case should act as a clear deterrent to those pursuing such criminal activity.”

Rat poison was used to create Spice. Credit: South West Regional Organised Crime Unit

James Foster, Senior Crown Prosecutor, said: “We worked closely with investigators to ensure the members of this organised crime group were brought to justice.

“This was a complex case involving the importation and onward supply of synthetic cannabinoids – or Spice – worth millions of pounds.

"The prosecution successfully presented significant amounts of digital evidence, financial records and cryptocurrency data to reveal the sheer scale of this group’s international operations.

“Drug supply has a corrosive impact upon society and destroys lives. I hope the sentences imposed provide a deterrent to those engaging in these illegal endeavours."