The investigation began in the summer of 2021, resulting in a series of strikes in October and December 2021 when warrants were executed at a number of properties in Chester and Saltney.
Cooke was the ringleader of the gang – and would use his relationships with upstream suppliers in Liverpool to uphold his position in the OCG and to orchestrate the distribution of illegal drugs. Cooke would arrange payment for his multi kilo cocaine purchases before having them transported to Chester.
Cooke’s arrest on 27 October 2021 followed the arrest of key player and drug trafficker, Kevin Jones. Cooke had arranged for Jones to collect an order of cocaine from their suppliers and had been trying to contact him throughout the day – however, unbeknown to Cooke, Jones had been intercepted by officers on his return to Chester and was being held in police custody.
Cooke attended Jones’ home address and was swiftly arrested by officers who were awaiting his arrival.
Chadwick was a trusted associate of Cooke and worked under his instruction. Chadwick would oversee the distribution of the drugs into Chester and would regularly travel to Liverpool to meet the suppliers. He would then employ others to stash, cut and deal the drugs on his behalf.
During the investigation, surveillance was placed on Chadwick and on 26 August 2021, he was spotted by officers at an industrial site located on the Saltney border.
On 6 October 2021, officers executed searches on the units and recovered 295 cannabis plants as well as a number of black tubs and vacuum sealed bags containing cannabis skunk.
A valuation on the drugs seized from the first unit searched revealed a potential wholesale value between £79,840 and £196,750 and street value of £164,400 to £259,280. The potential valuation of the drugs found in the second storage unit at wholesale was from £24,160 to £113,250 and street value of £49,740 to £149,220.
Jones was a trusted courier for the OCG and would use his own vehicle to collect Cooke’s bulk cocaine orders from the suppliers. He was arrested after being stopped on his journey back to Chester on 27 October 2021 in possession of 2KG of Cocaine.
McLoughlin worked for the OCG as a trusted runner and close associate to Chadwick. He would attend the stash house to collect the drugs, which would then be supplied to local users. McLoughlin was arrested on 9 November 2021 after his DNA was found present on 2KG of cocaine seized during a warrant at an address on Granary Wharf, Chester.
King and Hanratty were responsible for storing significant quantities of drugs on behalf of Chadwick and accepted money for their involvement in the supply.
McGrady took a lease out in his name for one of the units and would tend to the cannabis farms on behalf of Chadwick.
Waters was a drug runner and street dealer for the OCG, involved in both the cocaine and cannabis supply. He was an associate of McGrady and the pair would regularly meet at the storage unit where the cannabis would be packaged up. Waters’ was arrested on 13 December 2021 after officers seized a large quantity of cocaine, weapons and a suspected dealer list during a warrant at his home address.
Pearson, leased the second unit and when officers attended on 6 October 2021 – they found Pearson, one of his employees Randall and a large cannabis farm containing 151 plants.
Detective Sergeant Stuart Needham said: “Ben Cooke and his associates have been collectively jailed for over 37 years. The members of this organised crime gang brought misery, fear, and intimidation to the streets of Chester. The sentences handed down reflect the severity of their crimes and the significant impact that their behaviour had on local people.
“A dedicated team of officers have spent hours securing evidence as part of this complex case to ensure that those involved were brought to justice.
“Cheshire Constabulary is committed to tackling organised crime and drug supply. Organised crime blights local communities and residents can rest assured that our efforts will continue. The successful conclusion of this case has resulted in a number of individuals being taken off the streets for a very long time.”