Three admit roles in £1bn cocaine ring after Yorkshire’s largest ever drugs seizure

The BBC Reports

Three people have pleaded guilty to being part of a drugs ring which smuggled more than £1bn of cocaine into the UK in boxes of frozen chicken.

Cherie-Anne Rayner, 29, Liam Harrington, 38, and Megan Budden, 22, were arrested in Leeds and Dewsbury last year as part of the biggest police drugs seizure in Yorkshire history.

They admitted charges during the third week of a Sheffield Crown Court trial.

They will be sentenced in November alongside five co-conspirators.

Five men from Leeds, Dewsbury, Glasgow and Birmingham had previously pleaded guilty to drug supply charges.

The eight defendants all had “high-end” roles in a criminal supply chain in which “vast” shipments of high-purity cocaine were imported from a Mexican cartel and broken up to be sold on to British dealers, prosecutors told a jury last month.

The trial heard “blocks and blocks and blocks” of the drug, as well as a note bearing the name of the Nueva Generacion Cartel, were found in Rayner and Harrington’s home in Flaxton Street in Beeston, Leeds.

Drugs found in a flat in Leeds bearing the name of a Mexican cartelIMAGE SOURCE,WEST YORKSHIRE POLICE
Image caption,

Cocaine found in the Flaxton Street flat bore the name of a Mexican cartel

Police who raided their flat on 10 September last year discovered 141kg of cocaine with an estimated street value of £14.1m in a locked room along with 33kg of crystal methamphetamine worth nearly £5m.

Judge Michael Slater told a hearing on Wednesday this was the largest police drugs seizure to date in Yorkshire.

A further 57kg of cocaine worth £5.8m was found stashed in holdalls, plastic bags, cupboards and the bedroom in Budden’s flat in The Crescent, Dewsbury, during a raid on 10 November, the court heard.

Prosecutor Stephen Grattage said Budden had assisted her partner Brandon Maan, 23, who was paid thousands of pounds a month to store, repackage and transport cocaine for an unidentified drugs kingpin known only as “Fendi”.

Cherie-Anne Rayner’s brother Stephen Rayner, 30, also worked for Fendi as a “manager on the ground,” the court heard.

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