Tons of cannabis were hidden within shipments of children’s toys and clothing by members of a Kent-based organised crime group.

Samuel Dunne and Keenan Hall-Shelton were among those involved in the operation to smuggle the class B drug into the UK and Spain from California between February 2022 and April 2023.

Both have now been jailed for a total of more than 14 years following an investigation by detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate.

Samuel Dunne (left) and Keenan Hall-Shelton Photos: Kent Police

The offences came to light when Border Force officials began to intercept a number of vacuum-sealed packages containing high grade cannabis products in various forms, bound for addresses in the Medway and north Kent areas. The drugs were packaged within children’s toys and clothing and were declared as such for customs purposes.

Packages of cannabis were hidden within boxes of children’s toys Photos: Kent Police

Enquiries into the source of the parcels established that the head of the criminal organisation was 30-year-old Dunne, previously from Whitstable, who employed Hall-Shelton, 32, from Sevenoaks.

More than 500 packages were seized in total, estimated to contain around 3-4 tons of cannabis. Officers believe the operation in its entirety was worth at least £10 million per year to those involved.

Dunne had been leading the group’s activities from properties in Spain and Dubai but returned to the UK on Thursday 20 April 2023 and was promptly arrested at a family address in Greenhithe.

Later that night officers also arrested Hall-Shelton who had been linked to a shipping container in the Gravesend area where officers had located the same type of cannabis packages that had previously been seized, as well as just under 2.5kg of cocaine. A further search of Hall-Shelton’s home address in Sevenoaks, resulted in the seizure of £20,000 cash and a knuckleduster.

At Maidstone Crown Court on Wednesday 5 June 2024, Dunne was jailed for seven-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to import cannabis and possessing cannabis with intent to supply. Hall-Shelton was sentenced to seven years after admitting the same offences in addition to possessing criminal property, possessing an offensive weapon and an unrelated theft of a bicycle.

Detective Sergeant Jon Saxby of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said:

‘Samuel Dunne was the head of an organised crime group who made huge sums of money from the importation and sale of illegal drugs. The length of the prison term he has received demonstrates the seriousness of his offending.

‘Keenan Hall-Shelton also played a significant role as the custodian of the illegal substances that were being sold by the group, and is now paying the price for his illegal activities.

‘As part of this investigation we sent over 150 cease and desist letters to addresses known to have received packages of illegal drugs linked to this criminal network, warning the recipients that they risk arrest and prosecution if they accept any further deliveries in the future. Assisting the illicit operations of serious offenders like Dunne and Hall-Shelton is just not worth it when you consider the possible implications that a criminal record can have on your future prospects.’

By Ed

©2024 Hawkinge Gazette       -       The Hawkinge Gazette is not responsible for the content of external sites