County Lines drug supply group jailed for over 19 years


A group involved in supplying heroin and crack cocaine into Barrow in Furness from Merseyside as part of a County Lines drug dealing network have today been sentenced.

Reece Roach, 22, of Window Lane, Liverpool and Michael Claughton, 38, of Steamer Street, Barrow admitted conspiracy to supply Class A drugs – heroin and crack cocaine.

Helen Ungor, 55, of Steamer Street, Barrow was found guilty following a trial of the same offence.

A 17-year-old from the Liverpool area was found guilty after trial of conspiring to supply Class A drugs – heroin and crack cocaine – as well as a modern slavery offence regarding arranging or facilitating travel of another person with a view to exploitation.

The convictions follow a joint investigation between Cumbria and Merseyside Police into a County Line network named ‘Hippo’  County Lines is the business model used by Organised Crime Groups to supply drugs from larger cities to rural towns.

Police identified that a telephone line with the brand name ‘Hippo’ was advertising heroin and crack cocaine to drug users in Barrow in Furness.  In control of this telephone was a 17 year old who despite his young age had a leading role in this investigation facilitating the supply of Class A drugs and people to Barrow in Furness for onward supply. This included the movement of a 15 year old boy from Merseyside to Barrow in Furness who worked on behalf of the ‘Hippo’ line.  No prosecution was brought against the 15 year old.

During the period of August 2020 & November 2020, Cumbria Police jointly with Merseyside Police carried out a significant and complex investigation which culminated in the execution of warrants and arrests of those involved in the operation.

On the 11th August 2020 police officers in Cumbria executed a warrant at Steamer Street and located Reece Roach along with the 15 year old.  Also present was Helen Ungor and Michael Claughton.  Almost 200 street deals of heroin and crack cocaine were recovered with a street value of nearly £3000 and £1000 cash. Roach, Ungor and Claughton were arrested and charged with Class A drug supply offences.

On the 27th November 2020 the investigation came to a conclusion when Cumbria and Merseyside Police executed a warrant at 12 Knighton Road, Liverpool.  The 17 year old was located and arrested for offences relating to supplying Class A drugs and Modern Day Slavery under the 2015 Act.  During a search of the premises officers recovered the ‘Hippo’ telephone line which had been used to orchestrate supply network from Merseyside to Barrow in Furness, officers also located heroin and crack cocaine with a street value of nearly £10000.

Ungor was jailed for six years, Roach jailed for four years and ten months and Claughton jailed for three years and four months. The 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, received a five year custodial sentence.

A spokesperson for Cumbria Police’s South Area Drugs Unit said: “This is yet another significant sentencing for people involved in County Lines drug dealing here in South Cumbria.  This has been a result of some outstanding multi agency work with our Merseyside colleagues.

“The amount of drugs involved in this particular operation was substantial. Arresting, charging and convicting those involved, whilst safeguarding a 15-year-old who was being exploited, has dealt those who seek to supply Class A drugs in the area a significant blow. A police expert has estimated that this operation was worth over £100,000.

“I thank the officers involved in this operation for their dedication and commitment, we will continue to target those at every level of the supply chain in order to dismantle drug gangs and safeguard children.

“We continue to urge anyone with knowledge of drug dealing or drug supply in South Cumbria, and Cumbria as a whole, to get in touch.”

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