Three drug dealers who ran a county lines drug network in North Herts have been jailed for a total of more than 20 years.
Following an investigation by Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Operation Mantis team three people were arrested and more than £100k of class A drugs were seized (MDMA, cocaine and cannabis) from an address in Stotfold in October 2021.
The three appeared at St Albans Crown court on 18 March 2022.
Faizan Farooq, aged 29, of Old Hale Way, Hitchin, was sentenced to eight years for conspiracy to supply class A (MDMA and cocaine) and class B drugs (cannabis, resin).
Aaron Cooper, aged 28, of Mobbsbury Way, Stevenage, was sentenced to nine years for conspiracy to supply class A (MDMA and cocaine) and class B drugs (cannabis, resin). He was also sentenced to a further year for conveying prohibited items into prison and possession with intent to supply Class B drugs.
Rehan Farooq, aged 27, of Argyll Avenue, Luton, was sentenced to three years and four months for conspiracy to supply class A (MDMA and cocaine) and class B drugs (cannabis, resin).
Detective Sergeant Jon Leak, from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Operation Mantis team, said: “Faizan Farooq ran a drug line which supplied drugs into the North Herts and South Beds areas. His brother, Rehan, and Cooper worked for him distributing the drugs. All three were arrested and significant amounts of drugs were seized following a long running investigation by the specialist county lines Operation Mantis team. This will have a major impact on drugs use and associated crime in the county. It also sends a clear message that drug dealing will not go unpunished and anyone involved will be caught and jailed.
“Exploitation of vulnerable people is just one of the tragic symptoms of organised drug gangs. County Lines dealers can coerce people into providing a base for dealers to operate or to act as distributers themselves. They often use young people to handle drugs and money, drawing them deeper into gang affiliation that often leads to violence and abuse.”
You can report information about a crime online or speak to an operator in our Force Communications Room via our online web chat,. You also call the non-emergency number 101. If a crime is in progress call 999.
County Lines is the name given to describe drug dealing, which involves criminal networks from urban areas expanding their activities into smaller towns and rural areas.
It often involves the exploitation of children, as gangs use young people and those with mental health or addiction problems to transport drugs and money. These gangs establish a base in the location they are targeting, often taking over the homes of local vulnerable adults by force or coercion in a practice referred to as ‘cuckooing’.
Dealers typically use a single phone line to facilitate the supply of Class A drugs to customers. The phone line is highly valuable and is protected through violence and intimidation.
*What is Operation Mantis?
The Operation Mantis team was launched in 2018 and is made up of officers who specialise in targeting serious and organised crime. Since May 2019 the team has executed over 202 search warrants, made 211 arrests and seized over £175,000 in cash. This has led to numerous county lines gangs being dismantled and offenders sentenced to more than 206 years in prison in total.
What is Cuckooing?
Cuckooing is the term used when gangs establish a base in the location they are targeting, often taking over the homes of vulnerable adults by force or coercion.
How to spot the signs that cuckooing might be happening in your neighbourhood:
Lots of different people coming and going from an address during the day and at night.
Suspicious smells coming from the property.
Windows covered or curtains closed all of the time.
Cars pulling up to or near to the house for a short period of time.
An increase in anti-social behaviour around the property.