Gang members who gained millions from dealing cocaine ordered to pay back just £1

(Clockwise beginning top left) Leon Sullivan, Matthew Dean, Callum Richards, Joshua Collins
-Credit: (Image: Gwent Police)


Members of an organised crime gang (OCG) who traded in more than £4.6m in cocaine and laundered their profits into cryptocurrency have been ordered to pay back less than £30,000. The conspiracy across Wales thought they had made their funds "untouchable".

A two-day sentencing hearing at Cardiff Crown Court last year heard Joshua Billingham, 26, from Caerphilly, and Amir Khan, 30, from Cardiff played leading roles in the operation which came to the attention of police in 2020. An investigation into the OCG was named Operation Solano.

In his sentencing remarks, Judge Jeremy Jenkins said: "Drugs with a street value of £4.6m were generated as a result and no less 40kg of pure cocaine was traded.... In all, this operation was concerned with 12 individuals which gives some indication of the scale of the operation. A specific communication system EncroChat was deployed by many coconspirators who falsely believed they were safe in the execution of their trade."

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A block of cocaine found in possession of an organised crime group who transferred profits into cryptocurrency -Credit:Gwent Police
A block of cocaine found in possession of an organised crime group who transferred profits into cryptocurrency -Credit:Gwent Police

In a bid to hide the scale of the operation, Billingham and Khan recruited partners, friends and family members to help launder the money, while they were both serving prison sentences for other matters. During the period of the conspiracy, US$2.85m worth of cryptocurrency transactions were made in associated accounts and withdrawals of US$2.38m were made.

In 2020, Gwent Police searched a flat in Caerphilly and found two hydraulic presses used in the package and distribution of cocaine. Items were recovered which showed the extent the flat was being used to cut and package cocaine, including a sample of half a kilo of cocaine, six kilos of cutting agent and other paraphernalia.

When the home of Khan and his partner Caitlin De Jager, 24, in Gabalfa, Cardiff, was searched by police, a voice activated recorder was found showing both were actively involved together in the distribution of cocaine. De Jager can be heard assisting in the adulteration of cocaine and distribution.

She was in South Africa at the time of the raid, but was able to empty an account containing US$42,948 "under the noses of police". Designer goods with a value of £100,000 were discovered, including a pair of trainers belonging to Khan worth £10,000 alone.

As a result of the warrants in Caerphilly, Leon Sullivan, 25, Callum Richards, 25, Darryl Skym, 28, and Ian Kidley, 24, Joshua Collins, 26, were arrested. Matthew Dean, 35, was recruited by the group to distribute drugs in west Wales.

There were further arrests for Stacey Challenger, 29, from Caerphilly, Sami Rehman, 28, of Cardiff, and Sidra Khan, 27, from Birmingham, for their role in laundering and transferring funds into cryptocurrency.

Concluding his sentencing remarks, Judge Jenkins said: "The enterprise can be seen to generate staggering amounts of money indicative of the scale of the offending and dealing."

Joshua Billingham, of HMP Cardiff, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs, possession with intent to supply class C drugs and money laundering. He was sentenced to 14 years and eight months imprisonment.

Joshua Billingham, 26, from Caerphilly, was sentenced to 14 years and eight months imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police
Joshua Billingham, 26, from Caerphilly, was sentenced to 14 years and eight months imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police

Amir Khan, of HMP Cardiff, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs, possession with intent to supply class C drugs and money laundering. he was sentenced to 20 years and seven months imprisonment.

Amir Khan, 30, from Cardiff, was sentenced to 20 years and seven months imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police
Amir Khan, 30, from Cardiff, was sentenced to 20 years and seven months imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police

Leon Sullivan, of Claude Road, Caerphilly, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs. He was sentenced to 11 years and four months imprisonment.

Leon Sullivan, 25, from Caerphilly, was sentenced to 11 years and four months imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police
Leon Sullivan, 25, from Caerphilly, was sentenced to 11 years and four months imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police

Callum Richards, of Twyn Gardens, Blackwood, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs. He was sentenced to 10 years and five months imprisonment.

Callum Richards, 25, from Caerphilly, was sentenced to 10 years and five months imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police
Callum Richards, 25, from Caerphilly, was sentenced to 10 years and five months imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police

Darryl Skym, of HMP Parc, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

Darryl Skym, 28, from Caerphilly, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police
Darryl Skym, 28, from Caerphilly, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police

Ian Kidley, of Salway Avenue, Britannia, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs.. He was sentenced to two years imprisonment.

Ian Kidley, 24, from Caerphilly, was sentenced to two years imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police
Ian Kidley, 24, from Caerphilly, was sentenced to two years imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police

Matthew Dean, of Gilfach Street, Bargoed, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs and money laundering. He was sentenced to four years and three months imprisonment.

Matthew Dean, 35, from Caerphilly, was sentenced to four years and three months imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police
Matthew Dean, 35, from Caerphilly, was sentenced to four years and three months imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police

Joshua Collins, of Grays Gardens, Machen, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs and money laundering. He was sentenced to seven years and eight months imprisonment.

Joshua Collins, 26, from Caerphilly, was sentenced to seven years and eight months imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police
Joshua Collins, 26, from Caerphilly, was sentenced to seven years and eight months imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police

Stacey Challenger, of Asquith Street, Tir y Berth, pleaded guilty to money laundering. She was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.

Stacey Challenger, 29, from Caerphilly, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for her part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police
Stacey Challenger, 29, from Caerphilly, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for her part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police

Sami Rehman, of Kemys Place, Llandaff North, pleaded guilty to money laundering. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.

Sami Rehman, 28, from Cardiff, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police
Sami Rehman, 28, from Cardiff, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for his part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police

Caitlin De Jager, of Manor Street, Gabalfa, pleaded guilty to money laundering and being concerned in the supply of class A drugs. She was sentenced to four years and four months imprisonment.

Caitlin De Jager, 24, from Cardiff, was sentenced to four years and four months imprisonment for her part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police
Caitlin De Jager, 24, from Cardiff, was sentenced to four years and four months imprisonment for her part in a cocaine conspiracy -Credit:Gwent Police

Sidra Khan, of Birmingham, pleaded guilty to money laundering. She was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment suspended for 18 months. She was made subject to a community order for 18 months, and was ordered to carry out 150 hours unpaid work and a rehabilitation activity requirement of 15 days.

At a Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) hearing on Monday, the court heard Sidra Khan benefited to the tune of £3,500,148 from her actions. The court heard she only had assets worth £27,973 and was ordered to pay that sum.

Matthew Dean was found to have benefited to the tune of £2,770,439, but has no available assets. He was ordered to pay a nominal sum of £1.

Joshua Collins was found to have benefited to the tune of £2,674,447, but has no available assets. He was ordered to pay a nominal sum of £1.

Leon Sullivan was found to have benefited to the tune of £2,660,794, but has no available assets. He was ordered to pay a nominal sum of £1.

Callum Richards was found to have benefited to the tune of £2,659,611, but only has assets worth £320. He was ordered to pay that sum.

Amir Khan, Joshua Billingham, Darryl Skym, Caitlin De Jager, Sami Rehman, Stacey Challenger, and Ian Kidley will appear for a POCA hearing on July 1.

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