Almost £70,000 has been taken from the pockets of organised criminals in just one day.
On Thursday (May 4) officers and staff working as part of Operation Sentinel, Northumbria Police’s dedicated initiative to tackle serious and organised crime, had four orders granted under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The largest of those orders was against shameless drug dealer Aaron Stephenson, who fled to Spain during court proceedings but was later extradited.
Alongside members of his family, Stephenson, 29, sold cocaine, MDMA, Oxycodone and heroin – and was later jailed for 13 years in September 2021. Following a complex financial investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act, a judge at Newcastle Crown Court agreed Stephenson had made £88,225 from his illicit business.
They then granted a confiscation order for £33,621 – the total of criminal cash seized from an address during a warrant. The remaining sum is to be paid back out of any future earnings or money Stephenson comes into.
That same day, another order for £27,940 was also granted against Nicola Harland, a 41-year-old woman who came to the attention of officers back in summer 2021 while they were investigating Class A drug dealing. Harland was found to have been receiving cash credits from a suspected drug dealer and had been unable to prove the source of the funds was legitimate.
Harland denied her involvement but later stood trial and was found guilty of money laundering by a jury – now, her ill-gotten gains have been seized by officers and will be invested back into the community.
In addition to the hefty confiscation orders – two forfeiture orders were also granted at Newcastle Magistrates’ Court, for just under £7,000. The money, which is believed to be the proceeds of a series of cannabis farms, has been forfeited after magistrates agreed the funds were from unlawful conduct.
Speaking about the continued success of his team, Detective Chief Inspector Chris Riley from Northumbria Police’s Crime department said: “Our communities deserve better than to have organised criminals on their doorstep, making money from manipulating the vulnerable and breaking the law.
“Through the Proceeds of Crime Act, we are given an opportunity after conviction to make sure that any benefit from a life of crime is taken away. That money is then put into our community where it can help with charity work and projects which make the lives of normal people better.
“Why should a convicted drug dealer, fraudster or money launderer live a lavish lifestyle which their crimes paid for, while other people have to work hard and save up for the nice things they want? These results are fantastic and speak for themselves.
“They show just how dedicated and committed our financial investigators are and what a vital role they play in our continued activity to tackle serious and organised crime. Seizing assets, cash and so-called profits can permanently disrupt and dismantle the groups behind the crimes.
“We’d ask our communities to keep working with us – if you see someone living well above their means, if you use something you think is suspicious – tell us and we will act.”
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