Detectives have dismantled an armed organised crime group which was responsible for trafficking Class A drugs across the county and aimed to move a large quantity of viable firearms.
Five men have been sentenced to a combined total of 85 years for their roles in the criminal operation after an extensive investigation by our serious and organised crime unit.
Detectives launched an investigation into the group after a car being driven by Jason Fuller was stopped by armed officers on the A13 shortly after 9.30pm on 17 March 2022.
Once Fuller was arrested and the vehicle was made safe, officers examining the car found a professional hide, concealed under the back seats of the car.
Within a rucksack in that hide were ten handguns and more than 100 rounds of ammunition.
All of the firearms recovered were examined and found to be viable weapons.
Two mobile phones were also found, one of which was in sat nav mode, directing him to an address in Brickfield Road, Vange.
Further examination of the phone also uncovered two numbers which Fuller had been in touch with.
One of those numbers was quickly attributed to Andre Vella, who was arrested in Vange about an hour after the road stop.
As a result of another warrant, a second man, David Glover was arrested, also in Vange. During a search of that property, a revolver style handgun was found concealed behind the bath panel. A further six firearms were also located throughout his properties, five of which were viable following examination.
Officers also seized a large quantity of cannabis, cocaine, and evidence associated with drug dealing such as scales, cutting agents, empty packaging consistent with kilo blocks of Class A drugs and about £750,000 in cash.
Further analysis of the firearms and the bags in which they were being carried uncovered a number of useable fingerprints which were subsequently identified as belonging to Mustaque Ahmed. He was arrested two days later in east London.
Officers were then also able to link Liam Phelan to the operation. He was working with Vella in the trafficking of drugs and weapons. During his arrest, Phelan tried to evade police by driving dangerously and attempting to dispose of 0.25kg of pure cocaine.
Detectives then built a picture of the group and how they linked together.
Glover was wholesaler of cocaine and had access to recently-imported drugs and customer base. He supplied in bulk to other dealers.
Vella was a customer of Glover and regularly obtained large quantities of drugs from him. Vella then sold the drugs on to his own customers.
Phelan worked closely with Vella, and both were involved in trafficking drugs and weapons.
Fuller worked for Vella and Phelan in every aspect of their criminality; including drug and gun trafficking. He was trusted by them to have a hands-on role in the operation, while they remained distant from it.
Ahmed was a significant criminal associate of Vella and had access to a number of firearms.
All five men were charged with firearms and drugs offences but denied some of the charges and a trial was held at Basildon Crown Court, which ended on May 9.
They were sentenced today, Wednesday 27 September at the same court.
Detective Inspector Frazer Low, who led our investigation, said:
“We now know these men – as a group and in some cases individually – were responsible for the sale and possession of large quantities of Class A drugs and viable firearms.
“Both these commodities would have gone on to cause substantial harm on the streets of Essex. We have stopped them doing that. The seized firearms and the drugs which were seized will all be destroyed.
“The group had gone to great lengths to move under the radar and to conceal the products that they were trafficking. But they had no idea of the case which was being built up against them in order to secure overwhelming evidence which led to each man being convicted of incredibly serious offences.”
Disrupting and dismantling organised crime groups
Detective Chief Superintendent Lucy Morris, who oversees the work of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said:
“Firearms offences are not common in Essex, in fact they are very rare. But when they do occur, we act incredibly fast to seize them and ensure they do not fall into the hands of people who would use them to cause harm.
“Our serious and organised crime unit officers and staff are specialists in their field; they literally disrupt and dismantle organised crime groups for a living.
“In this instance, the speed at which the investigation unfolded is perhaps the most impressive aspect.
“After the stop was made on the A13, the five men soon found themselves in custody and detectives were piecing together the whole picture and building a really strong case for the Crown Prosecution Service.
“I have absolutely no doubt that had these men not been caught and taken to court they would have been causing significant harm in Essex.”
Highly trained armed officers in harm’s way
Chief Superintendent Simon Anslow, head of operational policing command, added:
“Each and every day, highly trained armed officers in Essex are putting themselves in harm’s way in order to keep our communities safe.
“In this case, what could have been an incredibly dangerous situation – given where the stop had to take place – was dealt with, with incredible professionalism from all involved and was the catalyst for a complex and in-depth investigation which has seen five dangerous people jailed today.”
Vella, 39, of High Road, Wormley, Broxbourne, was convicted of conspiracy to supply firearms and ammunition and Class A drug supply. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Fuller, 51, of The Esplanade, Frinton, was convicted of conspiracy to supply firearms and ammunition and Class A drug supply. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Phelan, 34, of Grove Avenue, Walton, was convicted of conspiracy to supply firearms and ammunition and Class A drug supply. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Ahmed, 44, of Ford Close, London, E3, was convicted of conspiracy to supply firearms and ammunition. He was found not guilty of Class A drug supply. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Glover, 36, Hollands Walk, Basildon, was convicted of possession of firearms and supplying Class A drugs. After a trial, he was found not guilty of supplying or transferring firearms. He was sentenced to a total of 23 years and eight months in prison.
Her Honour Judge Samantha Cohen told the group they were all involved in the possession of firearms and were all “professional criminals… with a desire for easy money”.
She also told them were it not for police intervention, “these firearms would have fallen into the hands of criminals in Essex,” and added: “reckless men like you may very well cause very serious and fatal injuries.”
Referring to the money seized from Glover alone, Her Honour added it amounted to 20 years of an average salary for a member of the public and he had “revelled in the money you made”.
The judge concluded the hearing by praising the “exceptional work” by the investigative team.