Two members of a sophisticated drugs gang which plotted to produce and supply huge quantities of cocaine in Wigan have been convicted.
Christopher Thompson and Simon Perks were both found guilty following a month-long trial at Liverpool Crown Court and have been warned they face lengthy prison sentences.
Stacey Heath, the girlfriend of another high ranking gang member, Martin Fish, was acquitted by the jury and after hugging her two co-accused she left the dock in tears.
Thompson, 41, of St Wilfrid’s Road, Standish and Perks, 40, of Sefton Road, Orrell, are to be sentenced on Wednesday along with Fish and two other men, Anthony Jenkinson and Thomas Gore.
Thompson and Perks were on bail throughout the trial but have now been remanded in custody. They and Heath had denied conspiring to produce cocaine.
Fish, 30, of Bell Lane, Whelley; Gore, 37, of Scot Lane, Newtown and Anthony Jenkinson, 35, of Inward Drive, Shevington, all pleaded guilty to the conspiracy offence.
After the jury’s verdicts following almost nine hours’ deliberations the jurors heard that Perks has two previous convictions in 2007 and 2010 for possessing cocaine with intent to supply.
During the trial Alaric Bassano, prosecuting, said that the gang were involved “in wholesale cocaine trafficking.”
They arranged to bring in cocaine from Mexico with a potential street value of £5m in two shipments. Despite police raiding their lock-up unit in Ashton-in-Makerfield they went on to arrange a further importation.
This involved hiding the drug in a shipment of coffee beans from California to Felixstowe.
The alleged ringleader of the gang, Adam Perks, brother of Simon Perks, is still wanted by police after fleeing the country to evade arrest.
Adam Perks planned importations into the country in 2013 and his cocaine was “adulterated, pressed into blocks and packaged” at the lock-up in Ashton. The next year he arranged for more cocaine to be smuggled in and organised a filtration process for the drug to be later extracted from the coffee, he claimed.
Heath’s partner, Martin Fish, was Adam Perks’ right hand man who went to Felixstowe to help recover the cocaine hidden in the coffee and carried out the subsequent extraction process at his home.
Anthony Jenkinson and Thomas Gore were Perks’ “foot soldiers” who carried out the mixing and pressing of cocaine at the lock-up.
Adam Perks was arrested on November 15, 2013 but there was then not enough evidence to prosecute him and in June the next year he flew to Colombia - allegedly helped by Thompson - and is still believed to be abroad.
Police raided the lock-up unit in Pretoria Road, Ashton, on March 28, 2014, and Jenkinson and Gore were arrested and police seized two presses and associated blocks. Jenkinson had 146g of the drug in a block which had been adulterated with benzocaine and just over 3g of benzocaine was found hidden within some speakers in the unit.
When Gore’s home was searched 8g of cocaine was found containing the same adulterant.
Despite the police seizures Adam Perks continued his illegal operation and bought chemicals to facilitate cocaine extraction and Fish bought another press.
On May 30, 2014 Fish sent him a message talking about the imminent arrest of a dealer who was likely to be out of action for some time and they “evidently expected to have sufficient drugs to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Mr Bassano.
The next month a container arrived at the port of Felixstowe allegedly containing cocaine hidden within coffee beans and Simon Perks and Thompson went there shortly after it was unloaded.
Text messages referred to the fortune that was going to be earned and to the complicated process needed to extract the drug from the beans. When the home shared by Fish and Heath in Prescott Lane was searched they found a makeshift laboratory, the chemicals and products needed for the extraction process.
In a later message Fish told Heath, “Job sorted babe, ha u can have ur ear rings.” He also told her they were “made for life”.
“These messages scotch any claim by Heath that she was ignorant of what was going on. She knew perfectly well and was delighted at the prospect of living off the proceeds,” alleged Mr Bassano.
Heath, of 33, of Prescott Lane, Kitt Green, denied the allegations against her. She told the jury that she did not know the items were in her home.
She said she believed that Fish was running a legitimate car selling venture which involved transporting cars through Felixstowe to the Far East and making good profits which related to the text messages he sent her.
Because of incidents of domestic violence in the past she was nervous about pressing him about his business activities, she explained.