A COUNTY Lines drug chain which supplied heroin and crack cocaine into market and spa towns, including Malvern and Ledbury, has been stopped in its tracks.
The West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit – alongside West Mercia and Warwickshire force – held a sting operation and identified Sandwell man Michael Miller as the head of a drug-running network.
It’s estimated the ‘Miller Line’ netted the 31-year-old, from Cooper Close in West Bromwich, more than £100,000 over a 12-month period.
Officers first arrested Miller on December 13 last year when he was spotted in Malvern on a suspected drugs delivery run.
He made off from officers but was quickly caught and a bag containing heroin and crack cocaine valued at more than £1,000 was found nearby.
Miller was released under investigation while detectives probed the wider County Lines supply gang.
They found that 19-year-old Marco Velasco from Sutherland Street, Aston, was also involved in the narcotics network, while Malvern man Bradley Hughes, from Clare Road, ran the Worcestershire arm of the operation and promoted the Miller line to recruit more customers.
Miller was arrested again on June 12, driving through Worcester and this time was found in possession of the main drugs hotline.
A subsequent search of his home uncovered a stash of designer trainers, shoes and belts valued at more than £10,000 – despite Miller claiming to be unemployed with no declared source of income.
In the following days Hughes, Velasco and another man – 34-year-old Bradley Rice from Malvern – were all arrested.
All four men went on to admit conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine and at Worcester Crown Court on Tuesday – ringleader Miller was jailed for eight years and nine months.
Hughes and Velasco were sentenced to 45 and 30 months, respectively, while Rice was also jailed for 22 months.
These are the latest convictions in a wider regional police offensive – codenamed Operation Ballet – targeting suspected County Lines drugs dealers.
Det Insp Julie Woods from the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit is leading Operation Ballet.
She said: “Our covert tactics enabled us to identify the activity of the Miller line and those behind its management and operations. The line advertising drugs to more than 100 customers and typically made up to £1,000 per day when it was operating.
“County Lines networks often exploit vulnerable people or children to do the dirty work, the street dealing, on behalf of drug bosses but there was no evidence to suggest children were being exploited in this case.
“However, there is no doubt the Miller Line would have brought untold misery to a lot of people in Ledbury, Malvern and the surrounding regions and fuelled associated crime.
“A Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) application will now be started against Miller in which we’ll look to strip him of any cash or assets we can show have been accrued through his criminality.”
Op Ballet is the largest operation of its kind ever carried out in the region and last June saw West Midlands Police team up with West Mercia and Warwickshire forces to carry out a series of raids across the region and London.
In total, Op Ballet has netted 75 suspected drug dealers believed to be involved in a total of ten County Lines operating out of the West Midlands and the capital.