A businessman who was arrested more than five years ago has finally been sentenced after being caught with high-purity cocaine in an undercover police sting.

Antony Bennett claimed he was working under pressure from Travellers after he was caught with two kilos of cocaine and £48,000 in cash in his home.

The 52-year-old was spotted by undercover police taking part in a drug deal when he pulled up on his motorcycle and handed over cash before picking up the two packages of Class A drugs.

Victoria Lamballe, prosecuting, said when the officers raided the defendant’s Middlesbrough home, they caught him testing the quality of the drug in his kitchen while wearing latex gloves.

Officers also recovered £35,000 in cash, the second instalment for the two kilos of high-purity drugs, and a further £13,000 stashed away.

Miss Lamballe said £26,000 was recovered from the rear of the Vauxhall Corsa when they searched the vehicle after it was stopped at the Lifestyle shop in Middlesbrough.

Bennett, of Ormesby Bank, Ormesby, Middlesbrough, pleaded guilty to one charge of possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply following his arrest in March 2019.

Andrew Hill, mitigating, said his client was being pressured to be involved in the illicit enterprise by a group of criminal Travellers after coming into contact with them through his legitimate business of sourcing door staff for pubs and clubs.

He told the court how Bennett had been caring for his ill father until his death last year for the vast majority of time the charge had been hanging over him.

Judge Chris Smith told the defendant the length of time he had waited to face justice since entering his guilty plea in 2020 had played a significant role in his sentencing.

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“You got yourself involved in some extremely serious drug trafficking,” he said.

“It has always been the prosecution case that you were involved in collecting it, checking it and if it passed the test, you would pay the second instalment of the money.

“This was a sophisticated operation by some of those involved.”

Bennett was sentenced to two years in custody suspended for two years. He was also ordered to perform 200 hours of unpaid work and attend 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days.