JAILED AFTER DRUGS STING
TWO Sevenoaks drug dealers have been jailed for a combined total of 14 years after a police sting operation in which £60,000 worth of cocaine was seized.
Billy Smith, 29, of Watercress Close, and friend Mark Burrell, 51, of Sylvestres, Riverhead, were sentenced after pleading guilty to being concerned in the supply of cocaine between October 2011 and January this year.
On two occasions, Smith supplied cocaine to undercover officers in The New Inn in St John's Hill after a deal was brokered by the Burrells.
Burrell's son Daniel, 22, of Ferndown, Meopham, and Richard Hampson, 31, of Guildford Road, Tunbridge Wells, were also jailed at Maidstone Crown Court on Monday.
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The total value of the cocaine changing hands was £60,000, but its street value was estimated to be more than £100,000.
The four men were arrested on February 1 after warrants were executed by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, following the four-month undercover operation.
Detective Inspector Eddie Fox from the Serious Crime Directorate said the sentences reflected the seriousness of the crimes.
He added: "These fellows are at the top of the supply chain within the West Kent area. Given the purity of the drugs, that's the condition in which that they will have come into the country."
The Burrells arranged for Hampson to supply cocaine on two occasions, totalling five-and-a-half ounces with a purity in excess of 70 per cent.
They also made arrangements for Smith to supply cocaine in The New Inn on two occasions – an ounce at 100 per cent and then a kilogram at 97 per cent purity.
Mark Burrell, the director of dissolved building firm Laceport Limited, was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment, Daniel Burrell to five years and Hampson and Smith to six years each.
Mark Burrell's 83-year-old father – who asked for his name not to be printed – said his son had fallen into the wrong crowd.
He added: "I didn't know anything until the day of the arrest.
"I had a meeting planned with him and couldn't find him.
"Then someone said the police had arrested him. I thought it might be a driving problem. Then, when they said it was drugs, I was shocked and the whole family was shattered."
He added he would visit his son in prison on the Isle of Sheppey, with the next trip planned for Saturday.
Speaking of their contact after the arrest, he said: "I told Mark, 'You have been a silly whatsit,' and he said, 'I was in the wrong company and I saw an opportunity to get some money and put it back in the business.'
"Building and home improvements have been suffering for a long time with this recession. It was not born out of greed."
Det Insp Fox said: "Police officers were able to infiltrate this crime group and formed a relationship with the Burrells, who were the arrangers.
"They put us in touch with Hampson and Smith and we were able to purchase some significant quantities of drugs, cocaine, from them."
He added the dealing took place in The New Inn, but there was no evidence the landlords had been involved.
Kent Police has now asked for a review of The New Inn's premises licence.
Reg Esqulant, the chairman of JB Properties (Kent), which leases the pub, said he had no knowledge of cocaine changing hands on his premises at the time.