Porthill drug runner Le Ma jailed after customs and police operation
DRUG importer Le Ma, who was found with nearly eight kilograms of an illegal substance and £320,000 in his home, was today starting a four-year prison sentence.
The 31-year-old, right, played a "significant" role in the supply chain, Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard yesterday.
Prosecutor David Bennett said Ma's partner Khai Lim went to Staples in Hanley on March 31 last year to send an envelope to China and a parcel to Malaysia. But they were checked and found to contain 1.68 grams of ecstasy and a mixing agent.
Mr Bennett said: "The Crown say this was the organisation sending drugs to their chemists abroad for them to be reproduced and imported back to the UK."
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Ma went to the same shop on April 7 chasing up the parcels, stating a woman sent them on his behalf. But he left after being told the parcel had been intercepted.
Between May 25 and August 10 last year, Border Agency staff at Coventry Airport had cause to check the contents of parcels arriving from abroad. One, addressed to a property in Silverdale Road, Newcastle, contained class B drug flephedrone, as did another addressed a self-storage facility in Tunstall.
Customs intercepted six parcels, containing a total of 18 kilograms of the drug worth £270,000.
Police executed a warrant at the home Ma and Lim shared at The Limes, First Avenue, Porthill, on November 24.
They found £319,870 cash, a money counting machine bearing the fingerprints of both defendants, a further eight kilograms of flephedrone worth £120,000, plastic bags, latex gloves and a plastic sealing machine. There was also documentation relating to storage facilities.
Lim, aged 35, a Malaysian national who worked at Bet365, pleaded guilty to concealing criminal property, namely £319,870.
Ma, a Chinese national, told police he was holding the money for a friend to whom he could not say no.
He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to evade the prohibition on importation of a class B drug; conspiracy to supply a class B drug; conspiracy to evade the prohibition on the exportation of a controlled drug; and concealing criminal property.
Paul Dockery, mitigating for Ma, conceded his client was a significant player.
"It is plain he was an integral player because without him, the operation would not have run," added Mr Dockery.
Saleema Mahmood, representing Lim, said her client is due to give birth to her second child next month and urged Judge Paul Glenn to hold back from passing an immediate prison sentence.
The judge jailed Ma for four years. But he said Lim's role was limited and sentenced her to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, with 12 months' supervision and 180 hours of unpaid work.
Judge Glenn told Ma: "Involvement in importation and exportation of drugs is taken very seriously by the courts.
"Flephedrone is a stimulant producing similar effects to amphetamine. The enterprise you were involved in involved 26 kilos brought into the UK. You were not the leading light in this conspiracy but yours was a significant role."
Judge Glenn added: "You were both prepared to play the part in assisting a drug dealer."