DRUG dealers who exploited vulnerable teenagers to peddle heroin and crack cocaine on the streets have been jailed.

The London-based gang were caught as part of a “County Lines” investigation by police, targeting dealers using mobile phone lines to sell drugs in towns and cities outside the capital.

They used 16 and 17-year-old youngsters as “runners” who were sent from Lewisham to Brighton to sell the drugs.

But the “Zak” line, led by Tamarapreye Soroh, known as Preye, was stopped after police raided a property belonging to his accomplice Kieren Sakhabuth and seized £3,000 worth of drugs in Brighton.

Police later caught 22-year-old Preye in possession of the phone he used for deals, despite his attempts to destroy it.

He had no previous convictions for drugs supply, but had recruited and instructed street runners in Brighton.

Meanwhile 21-year-old Sakhabut reported to Preye about when deals would take place, what they had in stock, and how much cash he had collected.

Detective Inspector Dee Wells was part of Brighton’s community investigations team on the case.

She said: “Early in the investigation, a drugs warrant was executed at an address in Brighton. Cash and drugs were seized to the value of around £3000 and the occupant was Kieren Sakhabuth.

“He was employed as a ‘street runner’ in the city and his phone showed that there was more than just one street runner working for the Zak line in the city at any one time.”

The Zak Line operation saw police making 80 arrests during a six-month investigation between July 2016 and February 2017.

Preye, of Queen Anne Avenue in Bromley, and Sakhabuth, of Elmcourt Road in Tulse Hill, appeared at Lewes Crown Court for sentencing last week.

Judge Paul Tain sentenced Preye to five years and four months in prison, while Sakhabuth was jailed for three years.

Det Insp Wells added: “We are dedicated to tackling the supply of drugs in this city and the firm sentences handed out by Judge Tain should be heeded.

“We continue to work with partners in the local authority and voluntary agencies, and will relentlessly pursue the peddlers of drugs.”

Meanwhile six others also appeared for sentencing for their role in the gang.

They were Sade Woolnough,19, of Bideford Road, Bromley, who was caught dealing to an undercover police officer. She got 18 months in prison.

Chakotai Saunders, 21, of Boundfield Road in Lewisham, was given three years for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Linsey Lumunye, 22, of St James Close in Carshalton, was given two years and two months for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Jerome Johns, 21, of Kelling Gardens, Croydon, was given 18 months, also for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs:

David Harris, 35, of Merevale in Hollingdean, Brighton, allowed his premises to be used and was given a two-year suspended sentence.

Finally, Desharn Flynn-Koromo, 18, of Moremead Road in Lower Sydenham, was 17 when he dealt for the Zak line on one occasion in Brighton. He received a Youth Rehabilitation Order.