The name of the clothing store hinted at where the money was coming from.

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The name of the clothing store hinted at where the money was coming from.

Two members of a drugs gang who managed the trafficking of cocaine transported into the UK in helicopters founded the apparel company Cartel.

Jason Wilton and Gary McCarten were key members of a multi-million pound Class A network supplied by one of Merseyside’s most notorious criminals in recent years.

They were arrested this week as part of a long-running probe into the conspiracy’s latest victims.

Every secret codename used on Merseyside is known to EncroChat detectives.

Wilton and McCarten were instrumental in connecting Merseyside drug suppliers with the dealers who would saturate the North East’s streets with their illicit goods.

Lance Kennedy, a criminal from Birkenhead, orchestrated the delivery of the cocaine into the UK.

As cocaine-laden helicopters were flown into southern England and unloaded in secluded countryside rental homes booked on the flightpaths, Kennedy pulled the strings from Spain.

Merseyside couriers would usually take the smuggled cocaine to the North East.

Wilton and McCarten would be in charge of what happened to the drugs after they arrived in the North East, with McCarten meeting the people who transported the drugs north personally.

On their own patch, the duo also directed couriers and minders.

They managed a clothing store in the Stockton area in addition to their drug dealing. They dubbed the shop Cartel in apparent reference to the South American gangs that export bulk of the world’s cocaine.

TeesideLive reported that both were sentenced to prison on Friday at Teeside Crown Court.

For their roles in the Class A conspiracy, McCarten, 38, of Wimpole Road, Fairfield, Stockton, and Wilton, 33, were each sentenced to six years and four months in prison.

They were arrested, along with four others, as part of Cleveland Police Department’s Operation Spoonbill, which brought down Kennedy and his network.

After being apprehended attempting to cross from Moldova to Ukraine with a close accomplice in 2019, Kennedy was sentenced to 18 years and four months in prison for conspiracy to provide Class A narcotics.

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