South Leeds cocaine gang jailed for total of 41 years

EIGHT members of drug gang who were involved in a large scale cocaine dealing operation based in south Leeds have been jailed for a total of 41 years.

A court heard ring leader Cyril Hooton, 38, led a lavish lifestyle from the huge profits generated from the drugs ring.

Undercover officers managed to bring the gang members to justice after carrying out months of surveillance into their illegal activities.

During the operation armed police stopped members of the gang in a van in the Beeston area, on February 2 last year, and seized keys to house on Moor Crescent Chase.

Officers went to the property and found a block of high purity cocaine worth up to £100,000 in a safe.

Weeks later officers followed Lee Griffiths to a house on Winrose Approach where they arrested him after finding £80,000 in cash “strewn” across the living room floor.

The bank notes were later analysed and found to be contaminated with abnormally high levels of cocaine.

On March 31 last year Harry Hooton and Andrew Riddler were arrested in the Old White Hart pub, Beeston, where they had met to exchange a £10,000 block of cocaine which was found in Riddler’s rucksack.

George Hazel-Owram, prosecuting, said: “Cyril Hooton played a leading role, benefited the most from the drugs and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle.

“He was not caught with drugs or cash. He adopted a hands-off approach, distancing himself.”

“He was a sophisticated and professional drug dealer.

“The evidence in this case indicates that he was at the top of the chain.”

Cyril was out of prison on licence at the time of the offending after being released in 2012 from a sentence for his role in a similar drugs supply conspiracy.

All eight men were sentenced for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Hooton also pleaded guilty to five offences of money laundering.

Investigations revealed Hooton and his partner enjoyed a life of luxury despite HMRC records showing he had no employment.

The couple rented a five-bedroom house on Blenkinsop Way, Middleton, paying £850 per month.

The prosecutor said Hooton paid for renovation work on the property which contained “lavish furniture”.

Between 2013 and 2016 the couple spent around £20,000 in cash on foreign holidays.

Hooton drove a Mercedes C-Class, worth £17,000, and his partner had a £13,000 BMW which been paid for in cash.

Items found at their address included two Rolex watches, a Cartier ring and clothing bought from Harvey Nichols, Hugo Boss and Selfridges.

The total value of the money laundering over a three-year period was in excess on £100,000.

Mr Hazel-Owram said Cyril’s brother, Harry Hooton, was his “most trusted employee” in the conspiracy.

The prosecutor said Kevin Middleton was played a key role in arranging drug transactions and Griffiths played a significant role in looking after cash.

Detective Chief Inspector Warren Stevenson of the Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: “The fact that these criminals have been brought to justice is a reflection on both the painstaking and dedicated work of the officers involved but also members of the public providing us with information about illegal activity in their community.

“The trade in Illegal drugs is a menace to society, bringing misery to the communities it affects.

“If people tell us what is happening we will take robust and positive action.

“These eight men now have a considerable amount of time in prison to consider the consequences of their actions and this should send out a warning to anyone else thinking of getting involved in such activities.”

Eight members of the gang to be sentenced at Leeds Crown Court were:

Cyril Hooton, 38, of Blenkinsop Way, Middleton, jailed for ten years.

Harry Hooton, 41, of Sunnyview Terrace, Beeston, jailed for five years, eight months.

Kevin Middleton, 35, of Bidder Drive, East Ardsley, jailed for six years, eight months.

Lee Griffiths, 38, of Helston Road, Middleton, jailed for six years, eight months.

Aaron Caley, 27, of Middleton Park Crescent, jailed for two years, three months.

Martin Cowburn, 27, of Throstle Terrace, Middleton, jailed for two years, three months.

Mathew Frearson, 32, of Broadland Way, Lofthouse, jailed for five years.

Andrew Riddler, 41, of Skelldale Park, Ripon, jailed for two years, six months.