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A drugs kingpin nicknamed 'El Shepo' who ran his organised crime network from the back of Citroen Berlingo van has been put in jail.
Ian Shepherd, 44, was sentenced to 25 years this week after heading a nationwide drugs ring that supplied cocaine and heroin ‘on a commercial scale’ across Great Britain.
Manchester Crown Court heard that the organised crime group was based in Kirkby, Merseyside and was involved in 'significant meetings and exchanges’ at locations including Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Darlington, Glasgow, London and Salford Quays.
Regular activity in Manchester, Chester, Trafford and Salford was also identified, according to Manchester Evening News.
The group was spearheaded by Shephard and courier John Burkquest, 37, who was jailed in August last year.
Shepherd used a Citroen Berlingo to get to and from deals while wearing a high-visibility vest to make it appear he was a tradesman.
Police later discovered he had been using a crafty rear compartment to hide 'large quantities' of drugs after the van was purchased by an undercover cop when Shepherd put it up for sale.
The hidden space was only accessible by using an adapted wheel trim removal tool.
Shepherd was eventually busted in July 2019 after a search of his mother-in-law's house found cocaine and a firearm, which was confirmed to be a match with his DNA.
The court heard the cocaine was estimated to have a street value of around £1,613.
Peter Hunter, defending, said Shepherd, who has three children, had become involved in the organised crime group as a way to fund a house for his family.
Mr Hunter told the court: “He wants to apologise and show remorse.
“He wants there to be no excuses and he doesn’t want to blame others, but he knows he’s made a huge, huge mistake.”
Judge Anthony Cross QC said there had been ‘tell-tale’ signs that Shepherd had played a leading role in the drugs gang.
“It is accepted that that group was led by you,” Judge Cross said.
“It was involved in the supply of cocaine and heroin on a commercial scale throughout the United Kingdom.
“It was truly the work of an organised crime group operating on a national scale.”
Ian Shepherd eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of Class A, conspiracy to possess a prohibited firearm, and three counts of possessing a prohibited firearm.
He additionally pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited smooth-bore gun, possessing ammunition without a firearm certificate and possessing explosives.
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