THREE men have been found guilty of their role in an international drugs conspiracy.

Craig Costello, Steven Beazley, and John Watson were convicted following a month-long trial at Teesside Crown Court.

They were the latest to face justice following one of Cleveland Police’s longest running investigations – codenamed Operation Spoonbill.

It was a fall from grace for Watson who ran his own security business targeting criminals and offering people peace of mind with his own brand of protection.

The 41-year-old appeared on national television boasting about his crackdown on crime all the while he was at the centre of a North East gang shipping drugs into the region.

Costello was found guilty in his absence after fleeing the country after the start of the trial.

David Wright, 42, pleaded guilty before the trial started at Teesside Crown Court.

The four men were arrested as part of the investigation focusing on the disruption and dismantling of a highly sophisticated organised crime group which was importing vast quantities of controlled drugs into the UK.

The offences took place between September 2015 and October 2016, the court heard.

Watson, of Moorgate, Eston; 40-year-old Beazley, of Barmouth Road, Eston; Wright, of Steele Crescent in South Bank; and 38-year-old Costello, of Chesterfield Drive in Marton, Middlesbrough; will all be sentenced at a later date.

Operation Spoonbill has already seen 33 other people convicted in separate trials, receiving a combined total of 262 years’ imprisonment.

It’s estimated that 500kgs of cocaine with a wholesale value of £17.25 million were smuggled into the UK.

The Northern Echo: Jonathan MoorbyJonathan Moorby

Those jailed include Merseyside drug lord Lance Kennedy and Teesside leader Jonathon Moorby, who ran operations from his Thailand base.

Welcoming the latest sentences, Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Sarah Robinson from Cleveland Police’s Organised Crime, Economic and Cyber Crime Unit, said: “Cleveland Police is committed to identifying those involved in this criminality and bringing them to justice and the Organised Crime Unit works tirelessly to disrupt and dismantle the networks of those who seek to profit from drugs.”

And Cleveland’s Head of Crime Detective Chief Superintendent John Bent added: “This was an extremely complex and long running inquiry but DCI Robinson and her team - supported by specialists from around the force and further afield - were tenacious in their determination and commitment.

“Drugs and associated crime cause untold misery to our communities and this demonstrates that we will not tolerate this activity in our force area.”