Police destroy Ipswich's drug network

TODAY, for the first time, the full story of how Ipswich police decimated a London gang who controlled the town's drug-dealing market can be told.A massive covert operation ended in raids on five properties, seizures of crack, heroin, and cash, 37 arrests and more than two dozen convictions.

TODAY, for the first time, the full story of how Ipswich police decimated a London gang who controlled the town's drug-dealing market can be told.

A massive covert operation ended in raids on five properties, seizures of crack, heroin, and cash, 37 arrests and more than two dozen convictions.

After two long years, a series of court cases and more than 20 defendants, the final trial for the police's Operation Wolf ended with the conviction of Ipswich drug dealer Johnny Callie.

Callie was one of ten main players in the T Business, which was controlled by a gang of London drug dealers who infiltrated and flooded the town's drug market from their base in Colchester.

Today, all are awaiting sentencing for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and face lengthy jail terms.

At the 57-year-old's Ipswich Crown Court trial, the jury heard they were the men behind the supply of the majority of crack cocaine and heroin in the town before their arrests in August 2005.

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Callie, a Vietnam war veteran, was arrested after police raided his home in Peterhouse Close in one of four early morning swoops on August 4, 2005.

The American provided the link for the London drug dealers to Ipswich, who rented two houses in Colchester to use as their base.

Callie paid more than £1,000 in cash as a deposit on a modern-detached in George Williams Way, Colchester, prior to his conspirators moving in in April 2005. The gang paid a rental of £900 a month until they were arrested on August 4.

Callie was also involved in hiring the cars used by the gang. Some of the cars, which were not overly flash to avoid detection, were found with drugs in Ipswich and linked back to Callie.

Detective chief inspector Dave Cutler, the officer in charge of Operation Wolf, said through the early summer of 2005, police were aware of the growing influence of London-based dealers in the town.

Investigations showed clearly they were linked to the borough of Brent and were controlling much of the town's lucrative drugs' market.

Surveillance teams and three undercover officers, using the names John, Martin and Roxy to buy drugs, gathered information, along with other officers, about how the T Business worked.

Posing as drug users the three officers used traceable bank notes while making their purchases.

They were directed to a number of locations in and around Ipswich where deals would be made, included the Stoke Park area and addresses in Firmin Close and Cambridge Drive.

Central to the T Business was the T Phone - 07900 627474 - which buyers would ring and then ask for either T or TT.

Documents found in Callie's possession also linked him to the T Business.

DCI Cutler said: "Everyone looking for drugs in Ipswich knew the number off by heart."

The T Phone was passed around and could be answered by any number of people involved in the dealing.

The T Business worked very much along the lines of a structured company, with the main man in effect acting as its managing director, relying on trusted lieutenants effectively working as company directors who ran and protected the business.

There was then a top level of dealers, most of whom were from London, who were go-betweens for the trusted lieutenants and a lower layer of street dealers.

Typically they would be sent out a couple at a time and get dropped off in Ipswich from Colchester.

Addicts would ring up and be told go to a location. When they arrived there would be told go to another location as a precaution to frustrate any police who may be watching.

During Operation Wolf police saw 40 users at a location on one particular day. The deals were always done quickly so the dealers did not need to hang around.

Two addresses in Ipswich and two in Colchester - were identified as being the main bases for the T Business.

Police watched Callie's address in Peterhouse Close and another property in Wherstead Road, Ipswich, along with houses in George William Way and Wallace Road, Colchester.

Simultaneous raids were carried out between 4am and 5am on August 4. These led police to another property in Watsham Place, Wivenhoe, where they arrested a further eight people. Twenty people were taken into custody that day.

Police subsequently discovered some drug dealing linked to the T Business continued. By the time the Operation Wolf ended at the end of 2005, 17 more people had been arrested.

The T Business spawned two smaller drug networks in the town, calling themselves the J Business, and the Asian Business. As a result of their operation police also identified another drug dealing enterprise basing itself at the Bosmere Hotel in Norwich Road, Ipswich.

DCI Cutler said: "The T Business was by far the biggest, but there were two side businesses we identified.

“The T Business was a large commercial, well-thought out business. I think they were making at least £2,000 or £3,000 a day.

"The majority of these people were not living a lavish lifestyle. I would say they live a fairly chaotic one. The majority were based on the gang-lifestyle in London."

“The T Business was well-run and the dealers would know what they were doing. At the time within Ipswich, the T Business were the predominate drug dealing group.

“We found in the next couple of days following August 4 that there was a shortage of drugs in Ipswich. We even had a chemist broken into by people looking for prescription drugs the day after the raids. It really hit them that hard.”

Those who profited from peddling the drugs dressed in the stereotypical 'gangsta' uniform of expensive jewellery, chunky chains, Dolce and Gabbana jeans and expensive trainers.

It is believed the gang running the T Business chose Ipswich because they saw it as an easier option than somewhere like London with less risk.

A significant number of those currently awaiting sentencing were not afraid to use violence, ruling through a combination of fear and retribution.

Two other men, Adrian Cadogan, 23 and Ovuchime Egwurugwu, 22, both of Harlesden, London, who were on trial with Callie, were acquitted of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

SUFFOLK police today paid tribute to the expertise they were given by the Crown Prosecution Service in bringing the ringleaders to justice.

DCI Cutler said: "I can't praise the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) enough in this case. We would never have got to this point without their help."

Ipswich-based CPS staff were brought in to help the police through the legal minefield of bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Senior Crown prosecutor Peter Gair, said: “We decided we would arrest the T Business first. Between the CPS and police we had to try to work out the hierarchy of the organisation on the available evidence.

“It was impossible to say who did what, but on the evidence we had it was clear some people had a much lesser involvement than others. That's why our strategy then was to prosecute the people we considered were more heavily involved as conspirators. The others were charged with offences of supply or being concerned in the supply of drugs.

“Often they were local drug users who were clearly employed by the T Business to sell drugs so they could make enough money to feed their own habit.

“During August, September and October 2005, I and case worker James Warne were virtually lived and breathed Operation Wolf.

“We were in contact with police with a view to giving advice and assistance literally on a daily basis, often in the evenings and at weekends.

“This was the type of case where a lot of decisions and actions have to be taken quickly.

“James then helped manage it over the next two years until we got to the trial of the last defendants.

“With this operation, because of the numbers involved and the resources of the court system, it was inevitably going to take some time for all the defendants to be brought to justice.

“Operation Wolf was hugely significant for a number of reasons. Not only did it disrupt the Class A crack cocaine and heroin business, it disrupted a very organised business and the drug trade in general for a number of months.

“It also gave the police and CPS a handle on how to deal with this type of activity, which has continued with the ongoing Operation Academy (a crackdown specifically targeting London drug dealers in Ipswich, which has netted more than 200 suspects this year).

“We have learned from this how to actively discourage dealing and catch those who are dealing. It is a continuing drive which is having some remarkable successes.”