A rapper who signed a contract with one of the world’s biggest record labels has been jailed for 12-and-a-half years for county lines drug dealing.
Asco, real name Asfa Allen, 32, made up to £1,500 a day as the head of an organised criminal gang that distributed heroin and crack cocaine from London to Colchester, Essex.
The grime artist, who featured on freestyle sessions hosted by former Radio 1 DJ Tim Westwood, signed a record deal with Warner Bros last year which could have been worth up to £1 million.
But he was arrested when police raided 15 properties across London and the home counties, seizing £25,000 in cash, around half a kilogram of heroin, expensive designer footwear and vehicles.
Asco was found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A drugs between September 2017 and December last year following a trial.
Judge Gregory Perrins jailed him for 12-and-a-half years at Wood Green Crown Court.
“You held and controlled the drugs line until your music career took off in the summer of 2018,” the judge told him.
“I am satisfied that even when your music career took off, you still maintained a controlling interest in the drugs business.
“You plainly made a significant amount of money and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle funded, at least in part, by dealing drugs.”
He added: “You are, in my judgment, a man with a talent for music, who was beginning to make a break from criminality.
“It may well be your career has ended before you had a chance to see how far it would take you.
“However, that is no-one’s fault but your own.”
Prosecutor Roger Smart said Asco was involved in a “highly profitable, well-organised” plot to sell heroin and crack cocaine through three “county lines” drug routes from Hackney, east London, to Cambridge and Colchester.
Bulk texts would be sent to drug users, who would be sold £10 wraps, with the dealers operating with a 100% profit margin.
Asco was the head of the “Bobby line”, which he boasted turned over £2,000 to £3,000 a day, netting him a £1,500 profit.
Mr Smart said: “After July 2018, when Mr Allen had signed a music contract with Warner Bros, his physical involvement in the running of the Bobby line waned.”
“The Crown submit, however, that he retained a financial interest in its operation,” he added.
“Whilst Mr Allen clearly enjoyed an increasing income from his career as a grime artist, it is submitted that he was clearly living beyond his means.”
The court heard the rapper bought £19,500 worth of jewellery between July and December 2018 and complained of losing £50,000 worth of jewellery during a trip to Dubai.
Police seized designer clothing and shoes from his home in Reading and found almost £12,000 in cash at his girlfriend’s home.
His barrister Sam Robinson said in mitigation that Asco is “something of a target” in prison because he is a “celebrity of sorts”.
“He’s still in contact with Warner Bros, who are still looking to maintain a relationship with him. They are waiting, obviously, on the outcome of this sentencing,” he said.
“Even now, even on conviction they are still of the opinion this is a man with potential. This speaks to his potential, his future.”
Akwasi Kwateng, 24, from Hackney, east London, was jailed for seven years after he was found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
Four other men – Kai Lye, 28, and Donovan Corbett, 22, both from Hackney, Bradley Ashley-Faponle, 33, from Barking, and Denzel Nimoh, 20, from Coventry – pleaded guilty to the same charge.
Corbett was jailed for nine years, Ashley-Faponle for nine years and nine months, and Nimoh for five years and seven months.
The judge adjourned sentencing for Lye pending inquiries into allegations he smuggled drugs and a mobile phone into the dock during the sentencing hearing.