County lines gang sentenced after trafficking a child to run drugs – Sussex
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A group of “exploitative” drug suppliers controlling the ‘Blue’ county line have been sentenced following a joint investigation led by British Transport Police (BTP).
Two members of the gang were found to be exploiting a vulnerable 16-year-old boy to peddle heroin and crack cocaine as part of their drug supply business.
The four men were sentenced by a judge on Wednesday 23 February at Brighton Crown Court.
Patrick Kargbo, 18, and of Royal Sussex Crescent, Eastbourne, pleaded guilty to human trafficking of a child and supplying Class A drugs. He was sentenced to four years and nine months imprisonment and handed a five-year Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order.
Jerome Ferusa, 20, and of Rushton Road, Northamptonshire, pleaded guilty to human trafficking of a child and supplying Class A drugs. He was sentenced to three years and eleven months imprisonment and was also handed a five-year Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order.
Brandon French, 20, and of St Mary’s Road, Hastings, pleaded guilty to supplying Class A drugs and was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.
Bayleigh Cameron-Green, 18, and of Mogul Lane, Dudley, pleaded guilty to supplying Class A drugs and assaulting an emergency worker. He was handed an 18-month Community Order.
On the afternoon of 26 October 2020, officers from BTP’s County Lines Taskforce engaged with a 16-year-old boy at Eastbourne station – he was noticeably unclean and his clothes were dirty.
Enquiries revealed that the child had been reported as missing by his family and messages discovered on his phone suggested he was being exploited to run drugs between locations.
He was taken into police protection and referred into the National Referral Mechanism for safeguarding, in conjunction with Children’s Services, before being returned home. Detectives then launched an investigation into the gang controlling him to distribute their drugs.
The teenager’s phone data revealed he was shuttling by train between Eastbourne and Ferusa’s address in Hastings. Each time he arrived in Eastbourne, a broadcast message would be sent to hundreds of recipients from the Blue county line advertising the sale of heroin and crack cocaine.
Further analysis of the communication data found on the phone quickly linked the Blue line to Ferusa, Kargbo and French.
All three were tracked down and arrested in December 2020 and search warrants executed at their home addresses. During the search, officers seized equipment used in the trio’s drug supply business, including mobile phones and SIM cards.
One of the burner-style phones seized from Ferusa’s address was found to be another deal line supplying heroin and crack cocaine in Desborough, Nottinghamshire.
After being released on conditional police bail, Kargbo was stopped by Sussex Police officers in an alleyway in Eastbourne. He was accompanied by Cameron-Green who was carrying small pieces of paper with the same phone number written on.
Both men were arrested on suspicion of drug supply offences and Cameron-Green was further arrested for assaulting a Sussex Police officer as he was being apprehended.
Kargbo’s Eastbourne property was again searched following his arrest and officers found 29 wraps of crack cocaine and heroin and another mobile phone sending broadcast messages.
The complex investigation conducted into the communications data across multiple mobile phones and SIM cards resulted in the gang being connected to the Blue line and responsible for drug supply across the South East of England.
BTP Detective Superintendent, Gareth Williams, said: “These convictions follow an extensive investigation involving the analysis of a considerable amount of phone data to link an exploitative gang of drug suppliers to the ‘Blue’ county line.
“They heartlessly exploited a vulnerable child to move their commodities across the South of England using the railway network, and I’m pleased that we were able to identify and safeguard the child and get him out of harm’s way.
“Since we set up our dedicated County Lines Taskforce we’ve encountered a younger demographic caught up in this crime type when compared to other police forces. That’s why we’ve added expertise to the team from the social and charity sectors, to ensure we’re doing everything we can to keep vulnerable people safe.
“I would like to thank our colleagues at Sussex Police for assisting us throughout the investigation – their significant contribution enabled us dismantle the county line and stop harmful drugs being peddled within our communities.”