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Scarborough detectives dismantle Liverpool-based “county lines” drug operation

Last modified: 24 October 2018 at 03:29pm

Detectives in Scarborough have brought down a Liverpool-based “county lines” drug operation that has seen 10 people jailed for a combined total of 37 years.

On 22 October 2018 the leader of the gang, Thomas Dean, 28, from Liverpool, was sentenced to seven years in prison for conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin.

His co-conspirators, Adam Harwood, 27, of  Walton, Liverpool was jailed for six years and nine months and Christopher Michael O’Donoghue, 49 of  Cherry Lane,  Liverpool was jailed for five years.

 A fourth member, Matthew Williams, 26, of Elmore Close, Liverpool, was given a 10-month suspended sentence for money laundering. 

Thomas Dean
Adam Harwood
Christopher O’Donoghue
Matthew Williams










Six other members of the operation, described as the “foot-soldiers” were previously jailed in 2017 for a total of 17 years and five months, bringing the combined jail terms for the dismantled gang to 37 years.

Thomas Dean was the controlling head of the drugs operation based in Liverpool between July and November 2016. After being released from prison for a similar crime in Weston-super-Mare, he travelled to Scarborough to establish himself as the main drug dealer in the town, using threats of violence and recruiting street dealers for his operation.

Following typical “county lines” operating methods, Dean used a “branded” phone line to target drug users in the town and during the period of the conspiracy, more than 25,000 text messages were sent in bulk via the line, advertising drugs for sale through local dealers recruited by the gang.

Harwood was one of Dean’s trusted middle-men, a facilitator and courier as well as recruiter of young, vulnerable people from Liverpool who they used to transport the drugs from Liverpool to Scarborough. The investigation showed he had spent a considerable time in Scarborough bringing drugs into the town and taking the proceeds back to Liverpool, particularly after the police disrupted local street dealers.  

O’Donoghue was a drug user himself and would perform various roles for Dean and take his payment in drugs. Among his services included providing transport for Dean.  As well as allowing him to use his own car, a vehicle bought by Dean was insured in O’Donoghue’s name who then took the blame for a speeding offence and the possession of a samurai sword found in the vehicle. He was also seen topping up the main phone used by Dean to advertise his drugs.

Matthew Williams allowed his bank account to be used for the laundering of the proceeds of the drug sales.

Throughout the four month period of the conspiracy, a number of local people were “cuckooed” by the gang where their homes were taken over by dealers, under threats of violence, to provide bases for the gang to store and sell their drugs.

Detective Constable Phil Nockels of Scarborough Serious Crime, Said: “Thomas Dean was the ringleader of this conspiracy, supported by his co-conspirators, he manipulate and threatened other people further down the chain to carry out his dirty work for him. Today’s outcome sends a clear message to those who travel to North Yorkshire to pedal drugs and exploit vulnerable people – we won’t tolerate it, regardless of where you live and how far you travel, we’ll find you and bring you to justice.”

North Yorkshire Police will continue to pursue those who travel to the area and exploit local people and provide support for those who have been victimised.

The force has staff permanently dedicated to investigating “county lines” and urge anyone who has any information about suspected drug dealing or has concerns for a young person in their neighbourhood, to let us know.

Drug dealing is often hidden and reporting your suspicions will help build up our intelligence picture and inform our enforcement activity.

Please call North Yorkshire Police on 101 and pass information to the Force Control Room. If you prefer not to speak to the police and wish to remain anonymous, you can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

If you or another person is in immediate danger, always call 999.

DO NOT approach anyone you suspect as being involved in drug dealing, but call the police.

Spot the signs of ‘cuckooing’

•             Increased callers at a property

•             Increase in cars pulling up for short periods of time

•             Different accents at a property

•             Increased antisocial behaviour at a property

•             Not seeing the resident for long periods of time

•             Unfamiliar vehicles at the property

•             Windows covered or curtains closed for long periods


Spot the signs of child criminal exploitation

•             Persistently going missing from school or home and / or being found out of the area;

•             Unexplained money, clothes, or mobile phones

•             Excessive receipt of texts / phone calls

•             Relationships with controlling / older individuals or groups

•             Leaving home / care without explanation

•             Suspicion of physical assault / unexplained injuries

•             Carrying weapons

•             Significant decline in school results / performance

•             Gang association or isolation from peers or social networks

•             Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being




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