The gang members were arrested and put before the courts following Operation Bespoke, a lengthy investigation into organised crime, drug dealing and money laundering in Lancaster and the surrounding areas.
Officers involved in the investigation initially carried out a series of raids in 2009 and 2010, acting on intelligence that the gang were involved in the supply and distribution of cocaine and other drugs. The raids also revealed that the gang had access to a variety of weapons, including firearms.
During the subsequent trial at Preston Crown Court, the jury heard how the illegal operation was headed by 27-year-old Anthony Diprose; with his younger brother Jason Diprose, 26, also organising the group’s activities.
Anthony Diprose lived a lavish lifestyle from the profits of the drug dealing activity, buying designer clothes, expensive jewellery and a high-value car. Anthony Diprose laundered money with the assistance of various friends and relatives, who also stood trial for the offences.
The activities of the gang left many Lancaster residents – particularly those on the Ryelands estate where many of the group lived –appalled at the criminal behaviour occurring in their communities, but fearful to speak out about it.
Following a 13–week trial, gang leader Anthony Diprose, 27, of Roeburn Drive, Morecambe, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine and money laundering. He pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation after clocking a Range Rover. He was jailed for 16 years.
His brother, Jason Diprose, 26, Austwick Road, Lancaster, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cannabis; conspiracy to supply cocaine and fraud by false representation. He was jailed for 16 years.
Both brothers were made subject to a serious crime prevention order which will last for five years from the date of their release from release from custody.
• Aidan Higgins, 21, of Dee Road, Lancaster, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and possessing heroin. He was jailed for four years.
• Liam Wiper, 24, of Euston Grove, Morecambe, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine. He was jailed for six years and nine months.
• Brian Coulton, 31, of Tarnsyke Road, Lancaster, was found guilty at trial of conspiracy to supply cocaine. He was jailed for five years.
• Kenneth Smith, 23, of Acre Court, Mainway, Lancaster, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and was found guilty at trial of possession with intent to supply cocaine. He was jailed for four years.
All were told they would serve half these sentences in prison and the other half out on licence.
Katie Noon, 25, and Paul Noon, 30, both of Austwick Road, Lancaster were both found guilty of a money laundering at trial and were given a six months sentence which was suspended for two years and 50 hours of unpaid work.
Rachel Lynch, 42, and Paul Lynch, 45, both of Tarnbrook Road, Lancaster were found guilty of a money laundering at trial and were given a two year community order, a two year supervision order and 40 hours of unpaid work.
Speaking after the sentencing, Supt Andrew Webster, Lancaster police, said: “A group of criminals who had instilled fear in our communities through their illegal activities are now behind bars, meaning the streets of Lancaster and Morecambe are a safer place.
“While out on their daily patrols our neighbourhood officers would hear from residents about how they felt that their lives were being been blighted by the two Diprose brothers and their associates. Many felt threatened and intimidated by the actions and activities of these individuals.”
He added: “Operation Bespoke was put in place to disrupt this organised gang and smash the drugs supply chain that they had built up – a supply chain which in turn brought additional crime with it, as burglaries and other offences are often carried out to fund a habit. We hope that the sentences these criminals have now received show residents that Lancashire Constabulary is committed to listening to their concerns, tackling crime and disrupting organised crime groups.
“At the same time Lancashire Constabulary is sending a strong message to those involved in organised crime – you will be caught, put before the courts and face going to prison.”
Reassurance work is now being carried out in the local community by their neighbourhood police teams.
Supt Webster said: “It is incredibly important that people continue to provide the police with information so that we can keep them safe and look for ways to prevent organised crime groups from operating in the future. Lancashire Constabulary will investigate and act on any credible intelligence that is passed to us.
“We want to continue working closely with our communities to tackle the issues that affect their lives the most and, together, find a long-term solution to these problems.”
Information can be given to police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. In an emergency always dial 999.