An Indian-origin man has been sentenced to two years and six months in jail for his part in an illegal drug trafficking network in the UK.
Bhavin Patel, 27, was sentenced at Harrow Crown Court in London on Thursday along with an accomplice, 25-year-old Lawrence Amoah, who was jailed for five years and seven months after the duo pleaded guilty to the offence of supplying Class 'A' drugs.
The court noted their role in County Lines activity, which involves gangs in cities such as London using children as young as 11 to deal mostly heroin and crack cocaine over a network of dedicated mobile phones to smaller towns.
During the sentencing hearing, Judge Justin Cole said to Amoah there was "overwhelming inference that you activated that line and supplied Patel" and that he was "directing or organising on a commercial scale, opening a new drugs market with an expectation of significant financial gain".
"County Lines is a problem that the Met, along with the Mayor of London, is committed to tackling and today's result is a positive step in disrupting those who profit off selling drugs," said Metropolitan Police Detective Constable Tom Palmer from the local Gangs Unit.
"The judge's comments totally reflect our own, in the fact that Amoah was attempting to open a drugs market on a commercial scale, and only cared about making as much money for himself as possible," he said.
The case dates back to October last year, when Scotland Yard officers on patrol came across a black BMW X5 parked up on Cambridge Road in Harrow, north London.
Officers approached the car and noticed Patel, who was sitting in the driver's seat, and Amoah, in the passenger's seat, were pretending to be asleep.
Officers knocked and both suspects refused to open the door. After about a minute, they opened the door but were reluctant to answer any questions.
"Drug paraphernalia was found in the car and both suspects were searched at the scene. Patel was found with 125 wraps of heroin on his possession whilst Amoah was found with a mobile phone, which was subsequently found to be running a County Lines operation in the Kingston and Surrey areas," the Met Police said.
Both men were arrested for possession with intent to supply Class 'A' drugs, which Patel resisted and "reasonable force" was used by the police officers to detain him. Both were taken to a nearby police station, where they were interviewed and charged on the same day to appear before court.
Subsequent enquiries showed that Amoah had established the drug line on October 6, shortly after his release on remand for an unrelated matter.
Amoah and Patel were subsequently making daily trips to the Kingston and Surrey areas to supply Class 'A' or illegal drugs.
The police investigation revealed that Amoah was in control of the drugs line and would send a "bulk" message to over a 100 "customers" in the dealing areas and Patel would then travel to these areas, either with Amoah or under his direction, in order to supply the drugs.
There has been an increasing crackdown of the so-called County Lines drugs trade in the UK, in which criminal networks exploit thousands of children and vulnerable adults to funnel hard drugs from cities to towns and rural areas.
The country's National Crime Agency (NCA) recently released an annual assessment of the illegal trade and found that phone numbers identified by law enforcement officials as being used on established County Lines networks is now 2,000 - nearly three times the 720 previously established.