A LEADER of a drug network who exploited a vulnerable man to sell crack cocaine and heroin has been jailed.

Andre Phanor, 29, unemployed, of Laundress Lane, Hackney, London was the “Mr Big” of a County Lines drug operation, called the Scotty Line, in Sussex.

Phanor, along with Christopher Saili, 22, a care assistant of Clissold Crescent, Hackney and Joshua Samuels, 33, unemployed, of Seven Sisters Road, Hackney “cuckooed” a vulnerable person in Brighton.

Cuckooing is a form of crime in which drug dealers take over a vulnerable person’s home to use it as a base for drug dealing.

All three have now been jailed after a three week trial was held at Hove Crown Court.

Judge Paul Tain said to Phanor: “You are in the rare position of getting caught, when the County Lines model protects those at the top, with normally only the lower level street runners being the ones detected. A mixture of excellent technological analysis and your own mistakes got you caught.”

Addressing all three of those convicted, he said: “These are very serious offences with disastrous consequences and now they have disastrous consequences for you.”

Judge Tain went on to congratulate the police officers who had brought the three men to justice and in particular singled out DC Jon Freeman for praise.

He said Phanor had been successfully identified and through the thorough investigative work and careful and painstaking analysis of the vast amount of data, successfully prosecuted.

During the trial, the court heard how an operation was launched by police in Brighton in 2017 to identify and disrupt County Lines operating in Brighton and Hove and to safeguard vulnerable people.

Detective Inspector Dee Wells said: “We identified the Scotty Line as supplying heroin and crack cocaine in the centre of Brighton and started to investigate it in December 2017.

“During the operation, CIT officers identified Samuels as a manager for the Scotty Line basing himself in Brighton. He hired vehicles and cuckooed a local vulnerable person. Phanor, based in the Camden area of London, controlled the dealing by phone and directed the street runners. Saili managed the flow of drugs between London and Brighton.”

Phanor was found guilty of conspiring to supply crack cocaine and conspiring to supply heroin. He was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. Saili and Samuels were found guilty of the same offences and were jailed for six and seven years respectively.