A MULTI-million-pound drug trafficking operation exposed when a courier was pulled over by Police Interceptors has resulted in 16 people facing justice.

Joanne Cooke was caught with £70,000 worth of cocaine and cannabis stashed in the boot of her car when her Kia was pulled over on the A19 at Crathorne, near Yarm.

The 36-year-old’s arrest led to the collapse of a drug-supply network, which spanned the Pennies, as dealers based in Liverpool made at least 75 trips to Teesside to flood the area with up to £1m worth of cocaine.

All the action was caught on camera as the popular Channel 5 television show was out on patrol with Cleveland Police in April 2016.

Cooke, of Trentham Avenue, Liverpool was jailed for four years and eight months, for her role as a trusted courier for the drugs gang.

The Northern Echo: The moment police stop drug courier Joanne Cooke which led to the launch of Operation Mint, left. Picture courtesy of Raw CutThe moment police stop drug courier Joanne Cooke which led to the launch of Operation Mint, left. Picture courtesy of Raw Cut

Teesside Crown Court heard that there was a flurry of mobile phone contact between people on both sides of the Pennines in the wake of her arrest.

Members of the Teesside operation were jailed after 16 people faced justice during a two-day sentencing hearing.

Richard Omar, who was at the top of the organisation on Teesside, was in regular contact with Liverpool drug kingpin Dennis Dawrant Jnr in the weeks leading up to and after Cooke's arrest.

The 53-year-old helped orchestrate the shipment of drugs from the North West into the North East on at least 75 occasions.

Sharon Beattie QC, prosecuting, said Omar travelled to Liverpool the day after Cooke had been arrested.

She said: "There was a flurry of communication between Omar, Dawrant Jnr and Edward Metcalfe, the following day. Cooke's phone was seized and when she didn't answer, and obviously didn't turn up, there were attempts made to contact.

"In fact the next contact she had was when she rang from a landline to Dawrant Jnr and the following day Omar went to Liverpool to meet them."

The Northern Echo: Drugs seized from Joanne Cooke's carDrugs seized from Joanne Cooke's car

Judge Paul Watson QC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, told they gang they were a 'plague on society as he sentenced them all.

Omar, of Leathorpe Court, Thornaby, was jailed for 16 years for his role in dealing cocaine and cannabis across the area after pleading guilty to possession with intent to supply Class A and Class B drugs.

Christopher Martin was caught trying to flush drugs down the toilet when police raided his home

The 35-year-old, of Victor Way, Thornaby, was jailed for seven years and four months.

Phillip Oram, 34, of Beechwood Road, Thornaby, was jailed for 12 months for conspiracy to supply cannabis.

Ryan Stirling, 27, of Marsh Avenue, Billingham, was jailed for five years for his role.

Nathan Moncur, 28, of Corfe Crescent, Billingham, was jailed for four years and eight months.

Paul Havert, 44, of Oaklea Close, Stockton, was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

His 38-year-old brother James, of Dovedale Road, Stockton, was jailed for nine months for his role in the conspiracy.

Masum Ahmed, 47, of Tower Hamlets, London, was jailed for five years.

On Thursday, drug kingpin Dennis Dawrant Jnr, of Liverpool, was jailed for 12 years.

Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Sarah Robinson from Cleveland Police’s Organised Crime, Economic and Cyber Crime Unit, said: “Operation Mint was a challenging and protracted investigation. I am extremely proud of the professionalism and dedication of the team who worked relentlessly to bring those responsible for this large-scale drugs supply to justice.”

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated Teesside Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054