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East Sussex organised crime gang to repay more than £100,000 profits

News   •   Apr 29, 2019 12:12 BST

Five members of a complex drugs ring who were distributing heroin and cocaine across East Sussex, South East London and Kent, already serving terms of imprisonment, are now to be stripped of more than £100,000 of their illegal profits following a April 2019 court hearing.

They include two ringleaders who had been sentenced at Hove Crown Court in February 2018 to life imprisonment for conspiracy to murder.

This success is in addition to the total of £3,287,521.62 in criminally acquired assets for which Sussex Police obtained court orders for recovery in the 12 months to the end of March 2019.

Leo Ellis, 25, from Hastings (left in picture) and his associate Jason Caswell, 42, (right in picture) acted as main drug dealers supplying cocaine, and in Ellis’s case heroin too, across East Sussex and Kent. They ran a drugs ring supplying the area with illegal substances from their suppliers.

However the work of Sussex Police detectives identified this ring and the locations from where they ran their illegal operation. In a succession of major raids and arrests officers seized a large amount of drugs and cash over several months in 2015 and 2016.

These were just some of the drugs seized during the police operation.

Now five members of the ring, including Ellis and Caswell, have been served with court confiscation orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) in a series of hearings at Hove Crown Court which ended on Wednesday (17 April).

They are required to repay the money into court within ordered timescales or will have to serve further terms of imprisonment, and will still have to pay.

Leo Ellis was ordered to repay £10,542.64.

Scott Gardner, 42, who had been sentenced to 12 months in February 2018 having pleaded guilty before the trial to money laundering, was ordered to repay £43,475.00.

Wesley Long, 41, who had been sentenced to three years having admitted before the trial conspiracy to supply cocaine, was ordered to repay £49,900.00.

Jason Caswell was ordered to repay £15.00.

Kevin Wise, 53, who had been sentenced on 17 July 2018 to 18 years imprisonment for supplying cocaine and offering to supply MDMA was ordered to repay a nominal amount of £1.00.

But in separate confiscation proceedings earlier this year for a related matter the Metropolitan Police had secured a POCA order requiring Wise to repay £136,635.00 of which £66,600.00 is going as compensation to victims as his offending in that related case involved fraud against individuals.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Richardson of the Sussex Police Economic Crime Unit said; "The court found that Ellis, Caswell and Wise, had benefited by amounts greater than those they are currently required to repay. However we keep records of all existing confiscation orders where the full benefit amount isn’t immediately available and regularly check on them to identify any additional assets which have been obtained since the original order was made.

"We then apply to the court for an increase in the original order. We will also sometimes request the assistance of the South East Regional Asset Confiscation Enforcement (ACE) team, part of the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) who will contact the offenders to help identify more assets.

"Meanwhile, even orders such as those just granted still send the important message that we will always go after criminal assets even beyond conviction, to try to return them lawful and useful purposes.

"Funds seized by the courts through POCA confiscation or cash forfeiture orders go to the central Government exchequer. However a proportion of this is returned to law enforcement. Similar amounts go the CPS and the court system.

"POCA-derived funding that return to this force is distributed equally between the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Chief Constable. Sussex Police receive 50% cash back from cash forfeitures and 18.75% cash back from confiscation orders such as these.

"We fund Financial Investigators and Financial Intelligence Officers from part of these amounts to help continue our valuable work in seizing criminal assets, with the remainder being used to support local community crime reduction and diversion projects.

"In some cases, like this, the amounts financially seized or forfeited are initially less than the amounts we estimate the criminals have benefited from. But there are systems in place to enable us still to pursue their profits."

Under Project Fortress, Sussex Police are working to tackle drug supply and drug related harm in your community.  See more information about Fortress and how to report suspicious behaviour online