A drug dealer from Salford who gambled his £190k in dirty cash and class A drugs by storing it in a Cops ‘N’ Robbers-themed fruit machine has been jailed for five years after being rumbled by detectives blitzing organised crime in the city. Anthony Stephenson, 34, was jailed at Manchester Crown Court yesterday (Thursday 2 December) – just two days before his 35th birthday – after admitting possessing cocaine with intent to supply, possessing cocaine, and money laundering.
The result followed the execution of three warrants by officers from Operation Naseby – Salford’s taskforce dedicated to disrupting and dismantling the city’s organised crime – in June at addresses on Old School Court, Mitcheson Gardens, and his home address of Westwood Crescent. During the searches, our officers hit the jackpot – finding nearly £200k in cash and cocaine packaged for supply – after coming across a fruit machine fittingly themed as Cops ‘N’ Robbers that contained locked safe deposit boxes.
Stephenson was subsequently arrested and taken to custody before appearing at Manchester and Salford Magistrates” Court the next day (Friday 4 June) where he admitted the offences put before him. He has now been sentenced to serve a total of five years in jail; three years and four months for possessing cocaine with intent to supply, and one year and eight months for money laundering.
The action comes as part of GMP Salford’s Operation Naseby – a dedicated taskforce to tackling and disrupting organised crime in the city. Since its inception of the ‘disruption hub’ in April 2020, it has seen a notable decrease in organised crime activity, including a 40% drop in firearms discharges between April 2020 and March 2021. A total of 250 arrests have been made, over £500k in cash has been recovered and substantial amounts of class A and B drugs have been seized – with dozens of targets now behind bars.
Almost £100k has been allocated to an operation in Salford which has seen shootings drop by over 60% since its crackdown on serious and organised crime in the city began less than two years ago. The disruption hub, initially created in April 2020 to run for six weeks, has successfully tackled criminal groups over the course of the last 18 months with scores of arrests, significant seizures of drugs, cars and money, and use of firearms driven down.
When the taskforce – codenamed Operation Naseby – was introduced, a total of 26 firearms discharges, mostly involving a series of violent incidents between two rival criminal groups, had taken place in Salford during the previous 12 months. Over 30 officers – including detectives, complex safeguarding officers, neighbourhood patrols, and pursuit-trained officers – were tasked with proactively targeting and tackling offenders suspected of being involved in organised crime.
Since its inception, the team has been responsible for 233 arrests, 239 vehicle seizures, the recovery of over £500k worth of drugs, and has searched over 100 homes linked to individuals involved in crime. Weapons recovered have included a loaded handgun, a shotgun, two loaded crossbows, a number of machetes and dozens of other knives and bladed articles. Twenty-one people have been recalled to prison, and numerous other offenders have been convicted of a range of drug, driving, and firearms offences, including several targets from the outset of the operation.
Due to a backlog of court cases due to the pandemic, a number of further cases are currently waiting to be heard. In the last six months, five firearms discharges have been recorded – down from 15 during the six months before the operation began – and are set to continue the downward trend after 26 shootings in 2019-20 and 15 in 2020-21. Now, an extra £95,000 has been allocated by GMP and the Home Office to fund the district’s assault on criminal groups for at least a further six months. Resources from GMP’s Serious and Organised Crime Group, and Specialist Operations Unit will also continue to be used to assist with the disruption hub’s work.
The team have worked with local agencies across Salford to safeguard vulnerable adults and children, and have continued collaboration with Salford City Council with Project Gulf – an initiative focused on diverting young people away from crime. Detective Chief Inspector Richard Thompson, of GMP’s Salford district, said: “Now we are half-way through the second year of Operation Naseby it is great to reflect on the amazing success both in numbers and reductions of incidents our team have produced. Whilst the numbers alone are striking it is worthy of note that each firearms incident has the potential to become a murder and you cannot put a value on the lives saved via this crucial disruption work.
“One of the biggest gaps in our response to firearms incidents was around limited intelligence, part of the inception of Op Naseby was to proactively make opportunities to gather intelligence by being out in hot spot areas, stopping potential criminals, vehicles and attending addresses making connections and helping fill gaps in our knowledge. We have achieved some brilliant results around this and we will not stop there. “To supplement this activity the rest of Salford District and key partners are also working together to get into schools and deliver training and diversionary activities to educate young people about the risks of gang behaviour, Project Gulf continues to work with a significant number of partners to target offenders using civil powers, injunctions and regulatory powers and our safeguarding team is actively managing and mitigating risk and protecting people on a daily basis.” Councillor David Lancaster, lead member for environment and community safety, said: “This is another success fighting back against organised gangs and steering young people away from crime. We will continue to work together to disrupt, deter and deal with those who blight our communities.