In a significant blow to organised crime in the Sussex region, a group involved in a sophisticated drug trafficking operation has been brought to justice. The criminal network, which cleverly disguised class A and class B drugs as bath salts and beauty products, aimed to distribute these substances to the USA and Australia using courier services. However, their plans were thwarted as the majority of their shipments were intercepted by authorities both in the UK and abroad, sparking a comprehensive police investigation.
Sussex Police, acting on critical information, raided a location at Truleigh Hill near Shoreham. In a stunning find, officers discovered approximately £1 million worth of MDMA in two holdall bags. This discovery was a pivotal moment in a thorough investigation that led to the conviction of eight individuals for their roles in this elaborate drug ring.
The culmination of the case was seen at Hove Crown Court on January 12, where the final members of the group received their sentences. The court heard how two bags filled with MDMA were found at stables rented by Jenny Blake in June 2019. Frequent visits by Lee Hudson and Laura Burke to the premises, combined with extensive paperwork and investigatory work, also implicated Matt Hodgson and Benjamin Beal in the operation.
Investigations revealed the group’s attempts to ship packages to Australia and the USA, concealing class A drugs within bath salts packaging. Astonishingly, they had purchased 64 kilograms of bath salts in just one month for this purpose. Every group member was found to be involved in these shipping attempts.
Further investigations led to the implication of Alexander Griffin in the crime ring. Griffin was caught by officers in central Brighton using a “stash” vehicle, which held around 4,000 suspected class A drug tablets, in the Churchill Square shopping centre car park in August 2019. The drugs were estimated to be worth over £320,000. Griffin’s interactions with the Mazirel brothers, Dean and Oliver, led to their subsequent arrests.
Dean Mazirel, a 39-year-old former construction worker, and Oliver Mazirel, a 35-year-old former landscape gardener, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs and were sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Alexander Griffin, a 37-year-old former financial consultant, received a six-year prison sentence for conspiring to fraudulently evade legal restrictions.
Benjamin Beal, a 43-year-old former managing director, and Lee Hudson, a 42-year-old former barber, were both found guilty of similar charges and received prison sentences of three years and nine months, and three years and seven months, respectively.
Jenny Blake, a 40-year-old former teacher, and Laura Burke, a 33-year-old former child carer, received suspended prison sentences for their involvement, along with community service and rehabilitation requirements. Matt Hodgson, a 47-year-old unemployed individual, also received a suspended sentence, along with community service and rehabilitation requirements.
Speaking after the case, Acting Detective Inspector Ed Bohnet said: “This was an organised group operating to disguise the transport and sale of large quantities of class A and B drugs from Sussex via courier services.
“Following a thorough investigation, all of the defendants have now been convicted.
“It demonstrates our determination to catch offenders operating in organised groups, and to disrupt drug supply which has such a harmful impact on our communities.”