In a landmark case unravelled in Bournemouth, a group of six individuals who were operating an extensive county lines drug network under the moniker “Hustle line” were sentenced to a collective prison term of 39 years and six months. This development took place on Thursday, June 22, at the Bournemouth Crown Court.
The individuals involved in this operation included two pairs of married couples, Adam Sheikh and Sarina Duggal, and Saad Nur and Hafsa Khan, as well as their accomplices, Lee Kitchener and Feliciano Mendes. Operating out of their bases in London and Birmingham, this group exploited vulnerable children for their illicit activities, which involved the distribution of sizeable amounts of crack cocaine and heroin in Bournemouth.
The initial investigation was launched on July 3, 2022, when a 16-year-old boy from Farnborough was detained in Bournemouth on suspicion of possession of a large quantity of crack cocaine and heroin. Given the nature of the crime and the involvement of a minor, the case was referred to the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Orochi team, which specialises in investigating county lines drug operations.
The investigation, which involved a detailed examination of the communication trails between the offenders and an extensive review of CCTV footage from a local hotel, led to the identification of Sheikh, Nur, Khan, and Duggal as the controllers of the ‘Hustle’ county drug line. The 16-year-old boy from Farnborough was found to be working under their command.
In a coordinated operation in September 2022, Kitchener and Mendes were apprehended, leading to the recovery of a significant amount of crack cocaine and heroin. In a related development, another 16-year-old boy, reported missing from Warwickshire, was found in a flat in the Boscombe area of Bournemouth. Following these breakthroughs, a subsequent warrant executed in Birmingham led to the arrest of the line holders.
Presiding over the case, Judge Jonathan Fuller KC noted the group’s determination and adaptability in pursuing its illicit goals. He underscored that this conviction reflected the resolve of the judicial system against such operations.
County lines drug operations refer to a form of organised crime wherein illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, often across police and local authority boundaries, and usually by children or vulnerable people who are coerced into the trade. The name ‘county lines’ stems from the dedicated mobile phone lines used for this purpose. The operations are characterised by their exploitative nature, with gang leaders typically using manipulation or threats to involve vulnerable individuals, including children, in their criminal activities.
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