Family found guilty of dealing Class A drugs

A family at the centre of a Class A drugs conspirary which saw officers seize cocaine, MDMA and heroin have been convicted.

Monday, 23rd March 2020, 7:00 am
Some of the items recovered by police. Insets Philip, Aaron, Wesley and Mckenzie Stephenson.

Grandmother Dianne Wright and her husband Philip Stephenson were the linchpins of a drugs empire which supplied a variety of Class A drugs across the region.

The court was told how the family business expanded by recruiting grandsons Aaron, Wesley and Mckenzie Stephenson and his girlfriend, Centaine Armstrong.

It was also alleged the grandsons’ associates Amy Sillet Brad Fogerty and Lewis Potter were lured into helping.

As well as helping distribute and supply the products – the family also created dangerous concoctions to help maximise profits – often mixing their Cocaine with worming powder, laxatives, laundry detergent and carcinogenic substances.

But, the enterprise was finally brought to its knees on February 14, 2018, with a number of targeted strikes being carried out at various Northumberland properties associated with the family.

Officers raided Wright’s property on Woodhorn Road, Newbiggin, where they seized £22,000 in cash, a quantity bulking agents, an ingredients list as well as a crossbow, air weapon and bullets.

A search carried out at Aaron Stephenson’s property on Chestnut Way, Widdrington, discovered a further haul of drugs and £17,000 in cash.

All nine suspects were arrested and charged with conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

Following a six week trial at Newcastle Crown Court, Diane Wright, 60, and Philip Stephenson, 66, both of Woodhorn Road, were found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and possessing criminal property.

Aaron Stephenson, 26, of Chestnut Way, Widdrington was found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and possessing criminal property.

Wesley Stephenson, 23, of Storey Crescent, Newbiggin, was found guilty of being concerned in the supply of Class A and C drugs.

Mckenzie Stephenson, 22, of Aidan Grove, Ellington and his girlfriend Centaine Armstrong, 21, of De Merley Gardens, Widdrington pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs.

They are all due to be sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court on May 6.

Their associates, Amy Sillet, 22, of Portia Street, Ashington, Brad Fogerty, 23, of Park View, Ashington and Lewis Potter, 25, of Linden way, Ellington, were found not guilty of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

After the hearing, Detective Constable Debbie Nisbet said: “The result has been the culmination of two years’ worth of hard work from officers who are passionate about keeping our streets free from drugs.

“The Stephenson family showed a blatant disregard for the law and thought they would never be caught.

“They selfishly exploited vulnerable drug users – selling dangerous products mixed with toxic chemicals – some of which can cause cancer – simply to turn a profit.

“The weapons we seized showed they were prepared to use violence to keep themselves in business and our streets are a safer place with them behind bars.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the officers who helped with this investigation and helped us achieve this result.”

The Force’s head of crime, Detective Chief Superintendent David Felton said: “I’m proud of the work the force carries out in the name of Operation Sentinel – our ongoing work to tackle serious and organised crime.

“I hope cases like this serve as a warning to anyone who thinks they can get away with supplying illicit substances across our region. We will pursue you and we will look to bring you to justice.

“Our officers will continue to carry out strike action, searches and seizing items to disrupt and prevent criminals from continuing their illicit activities.”