Fifteen men have been convicted of a range of offences linked to a Bedford drugs gang, including attempting to smuggle drugs into Luton Crown Court.
Seven of the gang members were involved in a criminal conspiracy to bring cannabis and tobacco through the court and into the prison.
Members of the Kempston Block gang were standing trial at the time for a wave of serious gang violence.
The gang’s smuggling tactics included hollowing out their shoes to store the contraband items.
Five men from the same gang were also convicted over an aggravated burglary, where they drove from Bedfordshire to Northumbria to steal from a cannabis factory.
Officers from the Northumbria force chased the two cars the men were in for nearly 20 miles before they were brought to a stop.
Eight gang members were found guilty of these offences over a pair of criminal trials lasting nine weeks at Harrow Crown Court. The final verdicts were returned on Thursday (24 October).
Four men were convicted over separate drugs offences, including two operations to bring drugs into different prisons.
Reginal Joseph and Saffa Gbonda were identified as the gang’s ringleaders, making thousands of pounds from these illicit commodities while Gbonda was behind bars.
Detective Constable Tracey Litchfield, who investigated the case, said: “This is one of the most audacious acts of organised crime I have ever come across.
“This gang had no hesitation in committing multiple serious offences, showing absolutely no respect for the court system and travelling across the country for their criminality.
“This has been a long and complex investigation for our officers and I am glad we have secured a successful result.”
Fourteen of the 15 men are due to be sentenced on 5 and 6 December.
Incident One – Conspiracy to supply Class B drugs
Ten members of the Kempston Block gang were on trial last summer after a kidnap and serious assault, stabbing and drive-by shooting involving their gangland rivals.
During this trial, on 27 July 2018, defendant Shaqiel Quailey mistakenly dropped a package he was concealing behind the dock area at the court. This was found by Serco staff.
Subsequent tests identified the contents as herbal cannabis, tobacco and cigarette papers, mixed in with coffee to disguise the smell.
Nearly a month later, on 23 August, Quailey and Devante Stanley handed over a bag containing clothes and shoes for the defendants at court.
However, Serco officers who searched the bag found that the shoes had been hollowed out. Inside them was cannabis and tobacco.
All of those on trial at the time were then searched and it was discovered that a number of their shoes had been subject to similar modifications.
Other methods used by the gang members included prison throw-overs using specially designed batteries and soft drink bottles.
A phone later found in Sanjay Clouden’s prison cell had been used to contact Stanley on the day of the offence, while discoveries on a phone belonging to Saffa Gbonda were crucial in proving the criminal conspiracy.
Liam McLean was also involved in the smugglers’ network. He was identified as dropping off the footwear and clothing containing the drugs to Stanley on 23 August, while his part in the plan was reinforced by further analysis of phones in the case.
Forensic work later identified another suspect, Reginal Joseph, whose DNA was found on the drugs package. He was proven to be the group’s packager of the drugs.
McLean and Joseph Gbonda pleaded guilty, with the rest found guilty of conspiracy to supply a Class B drug across the two separate trials.
Reginal Joseph, 31, of Bunyan Road, Kempston – conspiracy to supply Class B drugs
Saffa Gbonda, 26, of no fixed address – conspiracy to supply Class B drugs
Shaqiel Quailey, 25, of Vineyard Way, Kempston – conspiracy to supply Class B drugs
Devante Stanley, 23, of Garden Close, Kempston – conspiracy to supply Class B drugs
Sanjay Clouden, 21, of no fixed address – conspiracy to supply Class B drugs
Joseph Gbonda, 33, of no fixed address – conspiracy to supply Class B drugs
Liam McLean, 22, of Hartwell Drive, Kempston – conspiracy to supply Class B drugs
Incident two – Aggravated burglary in Northumbria
Bedfordshire Police officers were looking to arrest a number of Kempston Block gang members when they were arrested by Northumbria Police in the early hours of 20 February 2018.
This was in connection to an aggravated burglary at an address in Glanton Road, North Shields.
Five men travelled up from Bedford to North Tyneside with the intention of stealing the drugs from a cannabis factory.
Northumbria officers managed to track two vehicles which were driven away from the location.
The drivers of both vehicles failed to stop for officers and one of them rammed a police car on multiple occasions before being brought to a stop.
Clouden was found to be the driver of the Vauxhall Mokka, which had rammed the police car, while Kingswell-Shaw was in the front seat passenger.
Brandon Mutombo was in the back seat of the car and also arrested.
In the boot, officers discovered cannabis with a potential value of around £35,000.
Northumbria officers also arrested Ziu, who was driving the second car, a black BMW, and Ellis Drummond.
Drummond was found in possession of a 28cm leather sheath for a knife.
Further searches of the car recovered a toolbox containing two knives, one of which was a serrated hunting knife around 25cm in length, which matched the sheath recovered from Drummond.
Four of the five men pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to supply cannabis, while Drummond was found guilty of the same offence at trial.
Kingswell-Shaw and Drummond were last week found guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary and two counts of possession of a knife.
Ziu and Clouden were found guilty of the same offences at the earlier trial, while Clouden also pleaded guilty to dangerous driving.
Mutombo pleaded guilty to the two counts of possession of an offensive weapon.
Vincent Kingswell-Shaw, 23, of no fixed address – conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary; two counts of possession of a bladed article, and conspiracy to supply Class b drugs
Ellis Drummond, 28, of no fixed address – conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary; two counts of possession of a bladed article, and conspiracy to supply Class B drugs
Antonio Ziu, 23, of no fixed address – conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary; two counts of possession of a bladed article, and conspiracy to supply Class B drugs
Sanjay Clouden, 21, of no fixed address – conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary; two counts of possession of a bladed article; conspiracy to supply Class B drugs, and dangerous driving
Brandon Mutumbo, 18, of Downfield Way, Kempston – two counts of possession of a bladed article, and conspiracy to supply Class B drugs
Gang ringleader Saffa Gbonda was also found guilty over a separate conspiracy to supply cannabis at HMP Peterborough.
Gbonda was proven to have had an iPhone for at least six months while he was in prison.
Analysis of his online bank account showed he had paid out and received around £25,000 via transactions with his network of criminal associates.
He claimed this was to do with his business, Finesser Clothing, but could provide no evidence to support these claims.
Three others – Reginal Joseph, Mohammed Abdu and Leon Turpin – were also convicted in relation to this offence in earlier proceedings.
On 17 May 2018, Turpin was visiting Abdu at the prison when a package containing cannabis, tobacco, two mobile phones and chargers was intercepted.
Its contents were estimated to be worth up to £5,800.
Abdu was sharing a cell with Saffa Gbonda at the time, while Joseph was forensically linked to the package.
Mhudia Kaikai, 32, of Hartwell Drive, Kempston, pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of cannabis.
This was over evidence discovered on his phone as part of police enquiries into these offences.
Tyrell Clara, 21, of no fixed address, was also convicted of being concerned in the supply of cannabis in relation to separate attempts to smuggle drugs into Wormwood Scrubs, which was also linked to the Kempston Block gang.
Reginald Joseph, 31, of Bunyan Road, Kempston – conspiracy to supply Class B drugs
Mohammed Abdu, 22, of Nutwood Close, Bedford – possession with intent to supply a Class B drug; cause another person to bring a List ‘C’ prohibited item into a prison, and cause another person to bring a List ‘B’ prohibited item into a prison
Leon Turpin, 55, of Coniston Close, Kempston – bring a List ‘A prohibited item into a prison; bring a List ‘B prohibited item into a prison; bring a List ‘C prohibited item into a prison, and possession with intent to supply a Class B drug
Saffa Gbonda, 26, of no fixed address – conspiracy to supply Class B drugs
Mhudia Kaikai, 32, of Hartwell Drive, Kempston – being concerned in the supply of cannabis
Tyrell Clara, 21, of no fixed address – being concerned in the supply of cannabis