MEMBERS of two major drugs gangs – one of which was caught with one of the country’s biggest ever hauls of cocaine to be sold in the region – have been jailed for 120 years.

Police seized £20million of cocaine when an organised crime group convoy was stopped on the M6 while transporting the drugs from Kent to Warrington

The £20m of cocaine lined up next to the Volkswagen Transported the drugs were stashed in, which was stopped by police on the M6

A covert 14-month investigation, codenamed Operation Dreadnought, had intercepted intelligence of the massive shipment while monitoring another gang based in the town.

Led by Pro Lease Vehicle Hire owner Jamie Oldroyd, the racket trafficked cocaine across the whole country.

Officers began their investigation into the 29-year-old, from Birchwood, in March last year and soon identified a network of drug couriers and safehouses across the town.

Described by Cheshire Police as an ‘extremely well organised team of criminals who would go to great lengths to conceal their criminality’, they plotted to supply large quantities of drugs in Warrington, Manchester, Carlisle, Darlington, Scunthorpe and Sussex.

Among the other gang members was 21-year-old Lewis Johnson – who controlled a gang safehouse from a house on Liverpool Road in Sankey Bridges.

Paul Ferraiolo, ‘well known for close links with organised criminals in Merseyside’, sold a kilo of cocaine to Islam Grana on the car park of the Tavern pub in Widnes in April 2018 – with the latter then arrested in Halifax en route to driving the drugs to Middlesbrough.

Grana was acting under the instruction of Taulant Paja, owner of the car park where he worked in Birchwood.

Videos found on Grana’s mobile phone showed the pair and Oldroyd counting out around £150,000 in cash on the table of a house on Killingworth Drive in Gorse Covert.

And during the course of Operation Dreadnought, police became aware of Oldroyd’s links to Jamie Simpson – a cocaine trafficker who he was friends with and had worked alongside in the criminal underworld.

The 31-year-old, from Padgate, and three others – Clare Smith, Andrew Daniels and Dean Brettle – drove to Rochester in Kent in the early hours of Thursday, August 2 2018, and loaded 186kg of high purity cocaine that had been imported through the English Channel onto a Volkswagen Transporter van.

This van, driving in convoy with a Nissan Qashqai, was stopped near to junction 19 of the M6 at Knutsford – only miles away from its intended destination.

On board, officers found drugs with a street value of £20million packed into hidden compartments underneath the van’s floor – the biggest haul in Cheshire Police’s history, and the largest land-based seizure seen anywhere in the country to date.

Now, 17 members of the two gangs have been jailed for a total of 12 years.

Detective chief inspector Mike Evans from Cheshire Police’s serious and organised crime unit said: “This operation has not only resulted in the largest haul of cocaine being seized in the history of Cheshire but also the largest national in land seizure.

“We have wiped out two organised crime groups, preventing them as well as other gangs from gaining extreme profits – and in doing so have protected our communities along with vulnerable adults from criminals who bring with them intimidation, exploitation and violence.

“To transport such a colossal amount of cocaine, you have got to be a confident, arrogant and greedy individual – Simpson has proved that he is exactly that and this is what led him to believe he could bring illegal drugs into Cheshire without being disrupted.

“Despite Oldroyd’s organised crime group going to great lengths to conceal their criminality and avoid being caught, we were always going to be one step ahead.

“Let this be a warning to other organised criminals out there – Cheshire is and always will be a very difficult place to operate.

“I want the public to be reassured that protecting our local communities by pursuing organised criminals will continue to be at the forefront of our priorities – we know there are local people in our community who are living in fear of these criminals and we're aware there are residents who know gangs are operating in their area.

“To those who engage in what they see as casual drug use or show apathy towards it, I would highlight the misery these groups bring to the streets of Cheshire in order to maintain their profit margins.

“I hope successful operations like these reassure the public that we do act on information you provide and by continuing to come forward you can help protect your community and disrupt serious and organised crime.”

Another four defendants are to be sentenced in connection with the Oldroyd drugs gang at a later date.

Cheshire police and crime commissioner David Keane added: “This successful operation to take such a large quantity of drugs off our streets demonstrates the dedication of officers in protecting vulnerable people in our communities.

“I have no doubt that a seizure of this size will have saved many lives.

“I would encourage any Cheshire resident who has any concerns about this type of harmful activity in their community to come forward to police with any information they may have.

“This could make a real difference in removing serious crime from our communities to make Cheshire even safer.”

The 21 gang members and how long they were jailed for:

*All were defendants were convicted of conspiracy to supply cocaine unless otherwise stated

Jamie Oldroyd, 29, of Rennie Drive in Latchford – 14 years and three months

Jamie Simpson, 31, of Delery Drive in Padgate – 11 years and six months

Lewis Johnson, 21, of Elizabeth Drive in Padgate – nine years

Claire Smith, 36, of Oakland Street in Padgate – eight years and nine months

Andrew Daniels, 41, of Laira Street in Orford – eight years and six months

Moses Webber, 21, of Moorside in Latchford – eight years

Islam Grana, 27, of Killingworth Lane in Gorse Covert – seven years

Dean English, 24, of Carlisle – six years and eight months for conspiracy to supply cocaine and possession of cannabis with intent to supply

Terille Riley, 21, of Heather Close in Birchwood – six years and seven months

Taulant Paja, 22, of Gladstone Mews in Bewsey – six years and six months

Dean Brettle, 37, of Lord Nelson Street in Howley – six years

Joel Reading, 21, Rockingham Close in Gorse Covert – five years and seven months

Jordan Redfern, 22, Montgomery Close in Chapelford – five years for conspiracy to supply cocaine and dangerous driving

Elliott Auton, 22, Rockingham Close in Gorse Covert – five years

Paul Ferraiolo, 42, of Fox Bank Close in Widnes – four years and six months

Adam Todhunter, 29, of Teal Grove in Birchwood – four years

Jamie Winterburn, 47, of Oakland Street in Padgate – three years and four months for money laundering

Callum Voos, 20, of Strawberry Close in Birchwood – will be sentenced at a later date

Kyle Kelly, 20, of Solway Close in Cinnamon Brow – will be sentenced at a later date

Ryan Quinell, 25, of Surrey – will be sentenced at a later date

Jordan Read, 27, of Sussex – will be sentenced at a later date for conspiracy to supply cocaine and possession of a class A drug with intent to supply