Squad of six semi-professional footballers behind £260million cocaine empire are jailed for a total of 104 years

Tuesday, May 28, 2024 - Six semi-professional footballers behind £260million cocaine empire operating across Britain have been jailed for a total of 104 years.

Police busted the squad after they caught Luke Skeete, 26, while he was driving a small panel van which had 8kg of Class A drugs packed in the rear.

Officers arrested Skeete and a further 123kg of cocaine and 224kg of ketamine were recovered from storage units he controlled in Acton and Chiswick, West London.

Specialist detectives also discovered a secure messaging app on Skeete's seized mobile phone linking him to five fellow semi-professional footballers as follows:

Chesham United FC's Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick, 29, of North Kensington;

FK Senica's Jamarl Joseph, 28, of Wembley, North West London;

Enfield Town FC's Adam Pepara, 35, of Solihull, West Midlands;

Harrow Borough FC's Andrew Harewood, 34, of North Acton, West London; and

Margate FC's Melchi Emanuel-Williamson, 29, also of North Acton.

Each had an individual handle to conceal their identity, but these were uncovered by experts - and their chats 'demonstrated and evidenced a sophisticated, professional business model the group were operating to supply cocaine through the UK'.

Detectives say they spent 'countless hours' examining CCTV which showed the gang coming and going from the storage unit with drugs concealed in holdalls and boxes.

And police eventually determined that the gang had all conspired between April and October 2022 to supply more than 2.7 tonnes of high-grade cocaine with an estimated street value of £  to £ 260 million.

The group were sentenced to a total of more than a century in prison at Isleworth Crown Court on May 17 having all pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to conspiracy to supply controlled class A drugs, namely cocaine; and conspiracy to supply controlled class B drugs, namely ketamine.

Pepara was jailed for 24 years; Hippolyte-Patrick was jailed for 18 years and nine months; and Joseph was jailed for 17 years and six months.

Harewood was jailed for 16 years and one month; Emanuel-Williamson was jailed for 14 years; and Skeete was jailed for 13 years and one month.

Skeete had previously been jailed for 15 years at the same court in July last year.

This came after he pleaded guilty to two counts of possession with intent to supply class A drugs (cocaine), possession with intent to supply class B drugs (ketamine), supplying cocaine, and driving while disqualified.

Police Constable Perry, from the Metropolitan Police's Specialist Crime North team, said: 'The operation we've dismantled here is not some minor undertaking, involving a group of chancers – this is a highly organised criminal group who were supplying drugs on an industrial scale throughout the UK.

'The sentences received reflect the gravity of what they had been doing. This is a criminal group who had otherwise promising careers – semi-pro footballers with other jobs and courses they were undertaking – but they were motivated by making money from drugs that fuel misery and violence on our streets.

'Anyone else wondering if they can make cash from this type of activity should take a look at these sentences and think again because it's only a matter of time before you are caught.'

The investigation saw Specialist Crime officers carry out arrest warrants at addresses linked to the group in London and Birmingham on September 28 last year.

Police confirmed all of the individuals in question were located, arrested, charged, and remanded in custody.

Detective Constable Janes, also from the Specialist Crime North team, said: 'With Skeete's arrest we brought this house of cards down.

'After he was detained we secured valuable evidence on his mobile phone, helping us launch another investigation that led to us identifying his conspirators.

'Forensic examination of that device and invaluable CCTV evidence helped us compile a case so compelling that none of them had any choice but to plead guilty.'

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