A keen gym-goer began selling anabolic steroids to fund his own use of the body-building drug, a court was told.

Daniel Howe developed a well-organised trade in steroids and expanded to selling other class C drugs, but also cannabis from a small home grow.

Durham Crown Court heard the lucrative side-line came to an abrupt halt when Howe was pulled over by police while driving on the A693 in Stanley, on July 3, 2020.

Officers found an estimated £2,310-worth of class C drugs, £2,905 in cash and recovered a mobile phone from the defendant’s Volkswagen Sirocco.

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Chris Baker, prosecuting, said a search of Howe’s home address, in Stanley, led to the recovery of 23.6 grams of cannabis, 19 young cannabis plants and dealer lists.

A police expert’s view, having examined the contents of the phone and the lists, estimated the defendant was involved in the supply of class C drugs and cannabis extracts, “on a large scale”, with the motivation of financial advantage.

Mr Baker said the expert believed the defendant was not supplying on a bulk market scale, but to a “mid-level”, including to, "street users".

The court heard that at the time Howe was working as a rep for a company involved in research and the supply of anabolic steroids.

Mr Baker said there were a large number of contacts on the defendant’s phone under the headline “gear”, advertising his wares to potential customers.

Notes on the phone outlined which drugs he had for sale, setting out prices, mainly referring to anabolic steroids and cannabis.

Some payments were by credit card and sent through his mobile phone.

Mr Baker said the defendant’s bank accounts were examined, as the defendant sent his bank details to those ordering from him, using the word, “protein”.

Most of the purchases were found to have been for steroids.

Mr Baker said, “significant quantities” of cash were paid into Howe’s bank accounts, £52,000 under the heading “protein” in 2019 and £71,000 in 2020.

All the transactions on the phone were said to mirror the payments going into his accounts.

Read more: County Durham drug dealer ordered to pay more than £21,000

The 30-year-old defendant, of Poplar Street, Stanley, admitted 13 counts of possessing controlled drugs with intent to supply, 12 relating to class C substances and the other involving cannabis, in class B.

Howe also admitted producing a class B drug, relating to the 19 cannabis plants found growing at his home.

Richard Herrmann, in mitigation, said the defendant always intended to plead guilty and indicated that at his first hearing before magistrates.

Mr Herrmann said at the age of 30 Howe has only one unrelated conviction, “of some age”, and the latest offending ended in mid-2020, since when his client has established a working life employed in civil engineering.

“He works for a company having achieved a qualification, and he was open and honest about his circumstances, relating to the predicament he was in.”

Mr Baker said Howe is involved in contracts with local councils, involving road and footpath maintenance.

Having read a pre-sentence report on the defendant, Judge James Adkin told Mr Herrmann: “The inexplicable delay in the case means the sentence is in the suspend-able range.”

Mr Herrmann said the defendant still works out regularly, “albeit without a chemical advantage”, visiting the gym five times a week.

The Probation Service report author said Howe used steroids, himself, in the past and began selling them to fund his own use.

Judge Adkin told Howe the evidence found suggests, “active drug dealing for some time, on a relatively professional fashion.”

But he noted that he has stayed out of trouble in the two-and-a-half years since his arrest and is now considered as posing a low risk of re-offending.

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He, therefore, imposed an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, with a five-month 7.30pm to 6.30am home curfew.

Judge Adkin warned the defendant if he gets himself involved again in drugs, “the outcome would be prison”, as he would not be able to fall back on his lack of similar offending a second time.

Proceeds of crime proceedings were put in place, with a potential confiscation hearing to be staged at the court on June 23.