Four men have been sentenced to a total of 31 years for their roles in a drugs supply conspiracy from Liverpool to Cornwall.

The men played significant roles in a conspiracy to supply heroin and cocaine as well as launder money from the sale of drugs to vulnerable people.

At Truro Crown Court, the two men from Liverpool and two men from Cornwall were sentenced for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs:

  • Kevin Condliffe, 46 of Carr Lane East, Liverpool, was jailed for nine years and six months.
  • Richard McLean, 39, of Curtana Crescent, Liverpool, for eight years and six months.
  • Jonathan Fincham, 52, of Pellor Fields, Helston, for six years and six months.
  • Kieron Ellis, 44, of Carbis Bay, Penzance, for seven years.

The sentences followed Operation Foxshine, a police investigation into the supply of controlled Class A drugs by a well-established Organised Crime Group operating the County Line ‘Scouse Mick.’

Phone and financial analysis proved that between 1 January 2021 and 14 July 2022 the group were bringing drugs from Liverpool to Cornwall by car and using the Royal Mail to post the cash profits back up the line to associates in Liverpool.

A detailed review identified that the group posted 140 parcels during that time. Based on weights, the parcels were believed to contain more than £560,000 in cash, equating to the sale of around seven kilograms of drugs.

Officers carried out warrants and seizures on a number of occasions during the investigation including in September 2021 when Condliffe and McLean left a carrier bag containing £50,000, or 5,000 deals, of heroin in coffee jars in a pub. The pair returned a short time later to retrieve the bag, only to find police had already seized it. 

Thousands of messages between the four were found on mobile devices discussing the distribution of drugs and movement of cash – these were identified by police despite the men regularly changing phone numbers in order to avoid detection.

On 13 July 2022 Condliffe posted two parcels containing nearly £10,000 in cash to Liverpool. Officers from Devon & Cornwall Police and Merseyside Police awaited confirmation that the parcels had been successfully delivered the following morning before executing 11 warrants simultaneously in Helston, Penzance, Carbis Bay and Liverpool.

The men were all arrested in Cornwall and later charged. The offenders pleaded guilty to conspiracy to the supply of Class A controlled drugs in court and were remanded into custody ahead of sentencing.

The investigation team, along with Royal Mail, have received an International Digital Investigation Award (IDIA) for their work on the case.

Detective Inspector Glenn Willcocks, Senior Investigating Officer, said: “We worked closely with the Royal Mail and Merseyside Police to identify the patterns and behaviours being used by this group.

“We were then able to track the volume and frequency of the parcels which enabled us to understand the scale of the group, take action against the offenders and dismantle the drugs line. This is an example of how these groups will adapt the ways they work with the times and that’s something that police and other agencies must be alive to.

“This was no sideline job, those sentenced today played pivotal roles in this group and benefitted from the proceeds of crime.”

Christine Hart, of the CPS South West Complex Casework Unit, said: “The use of the Royal Mail Postal Service to send cash profits back to Liverpool was a unique tactic employed by this organised crime group to try and avoid the repeated short ‘cash courier’ journeys which usually feature in County Lines drug dealing.

“Despite this, Kevin Condliffe and Richard McLean still drew attention to themselves whilst drinking in the Quintrell Inn, Newquay on 5th September 2021 and left behind their bag containing 0.5kg heroin which had a street value of £50,000. Following intervention by the customers and staff at the Quintrell Inn, who recovered the bag before Condliffe and McLean even realised it was missing, together with the subsequent police investigation, those drugs, and many others, never made it to the street.

“Drug-related crime is corrosive – it damages not only those involved in buying and selling and their families, but the communities in which they live. The CPS is committed to working with the police to disrupt the supply of drugs by bringing those involved to justice and ensuring they do not profit from their criminality.”

Detective Sergeant Gerard Farley from Merseyside Police said: “We welcome today’s sentencing of Condliffe, McLean, Fincham and Ellis. This investigation involved working closely with Devon and Cornwall Police to gather sufficient intelligence to execute warrants and seizures, and ultimately shut down the ‘Scouse Mick’ County Line.

“The four men involved were key figures in the drug supply chain from Liverpool to Cornwall and we are pleased they are now behind bars and unable to cause any more harm in our communities.

“Project Medusa is Merseyside’s dedicated response to County Lines, and we are committed to working alongside other forces to close them down and protect vulnerable people.”

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “Our security teams work very closely with police forces and will often assist officers with their expertise and the tools at their disposal. As was the case here.

“We are very pleased their support in this investigation led to a conviction and this substantial sentence. We will always do everything we can to make our service extremely hostile to criminals.”