Four men who were part of an organised crime group that moved 250 kilos of cocaine with a street value of more than £15 million have been jailed.  

Patrick Hallahan, Kevin Ratcliffe, Michael Blewett and Damion Freeman, from Brighton and Hove, were part of a group of men who supplied the drugs between 2019 and 2022.

Officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate were first alerted to the crimes when they seized a phone in 2020 during a separate investigation.

There was an international operation running at that time which took down an encrypted mobile phone chat system called EncroChat, being used by criminals across the UK and Europe.

The operation allowed investigators from the National Crime Agency (NCA) to understand the illicit activity of people using the system and showed the scale of criminal businesses operating across multiple countries.

As part of that work data was retrieved from thousands of devices, which included the phone in this instance, that had been seized by officers.

The information on the phone led Kent Police detectives to David Squires and Lewis Cosgrove, from Rochester, who both had EncroChat accounts.

They were later found to be instrumental in the running of the organised crime network, based in Kent, and had a part to play in the mass supply of cocaine to at least two other organised crime groups in different counties.

Detectives built further connections to Hallahan, Ratcliffe, Blewett and Freeman as well as Richard Shelton and Jessie Cockle.

They all had a role in the conspiracy, either sending or receiving drugs or cash, possession of drugs and criminal property, managing supply records or being on the payroll.

Drugs were being shipped between Kent, Suffolk and East Sussex.

Squires was arrested in connection with this conspiracy on March 5, 2021, where six kilos of cocaine and approximately £114,000 in cash were recovered from a premises that belonged to him in Rochester.

The Argus: Kevin Ratcliffe has been jailed for 14 yearsKevin Ratcliffe has been jailed for 14 years (Image: Kent Police)

In addition to the drugs and cash, a tick list recovered from him identified that the network had been in receipt and subsequent distribution of 43 kilos of cocaine.

When Squires was arrested, Cosgrove was promoted in the network to replace him, and detectives continued to build their case and gather the evidence needed to secure charges.

Cosgrove was seen by officers having a meeting in Strood with a man called James Savva from London on November 29, 2021.

The Argus: Patrick Hallahan has been jailed for 14 yearsPatrick Hallahan has been jailed for 14 years (Image: Kent Police)

Cosgrove collected two bags from Savva and took them to an address. After he had left that premises, police ordered a search warrant at the property and recovered 16 kilos of high purity cocaine.

On March 23, 2022, detectives had enough evidence to bring in all the suspects they believed were involved in the conspiracy.

Enforcement action was carried out simultaneously at several properties in Kent, London, Suffolk, and Sussex.

The Argus: Michael Blewett has been jailed for 10 years and six monthsMichael Blewett has been jailed for 10 years and six months (Image: Kent Police)

Hallahan, Shelton, Ratcliffe, Cockle, Cosgrove, Blewett, Freeman, Savva and a man named Carl Crabtree were all arrested and charged.

The Argus: Some of the assets seizedSome of the assets seized

Approximately £145,000 in cash was recovered during those property searches in addition to high value items and watches.

The four Sussex suspects pleaded guilty to the charges as follows:

  • Patrick Hallahan, 36, of The Drive, Hove: four counts of conspiracy to supply class A cocaine and one count of encouraging or assisting in commission of indictable offences.
  • Kevin Ratcliffe, 42, of Longhill Road, Brighton: four counts of conspiracy to supply class A cocaine.
  • Michael Blewett, 43, of Mulberry Close, Brighton: one count of being concerned in the supply of class A cocaine.
  • Damion Freeman, 45, of Lenham Avenue, Saltdean: one count of being concerned in the supply of class A cocaine.

The Argus: Damion Freeman has been jailed for eight-and-a-half yearsDamion Freeman has been jailed for eight-and-a-half years (Image: Kent Police)

They were sentenced on Thursday, January 18, and received the following sentences:

  • Hallahan – 14 years
  • Ratcliffe – 14 years
  • Blewett – ten years and six months
  • Freeman – eight years and six months

DC Mark Froome, Kent Police’s Investigating Officer, said: "Disrupting criminal gangs like this and putting a stop to their offending in Kent will continue to be one of our priorities.

"The supply of drugs into this county brings misery to people’s lives and we will always work with other forces to ensure we catch those responsible.

"The criminals involved in this conspiracy were focused on making money and their greed got in the way of any consideration for the lives they would destroy once those drugs had found their way into our communities.

"No matter how good you think you are at covering your tracks, we will eventually catch up with you to ensure justice is served."