A career criminal responsible for shipping several tonnes of cannabis and cocaine to the UK was today sentenced to 24 years’ imprisonment.
Ronnie Melius, of Grays, Essex, used the cover of a seemingly legitimate logistics company to oversee five separate consignments of illegal drugs in less than two years.
Purporting to be shipping foodstuffs to the UK from the Caribbean, he sought to flood UK communities with more than 1.7 tonnes of cannabis as well as bring in high-purity cocaine potentially worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
SOCA’s investigation began following the seizure of 14kgs of cocaine and 70kgs of herbal cannabis by UK Border Force officers at Heathrow Airport in December 2011. The drugs were concealed in a large load of what seemed to be Jamaican yams, but turned out to be imitations of the vegetable constructed from fibreglass.
Officers removed the drugs and then let the consignment continue to its delivery address within the airport complex. Two members of Melius’ organised crime group, Shane Brady and Richard Terrelong, arrived and loaded the shipment into their van - unaware that the manufactured yams no longer contained the drugs.
Travelling in convoy with another vehicle containing three more members of the conspiracy, Brady and Terrelong drove to an industrial estate in Grays. As all five unloaded the van next to a container belonging to Melius, SOCA officers moved in and arrested them.
Melius himself was apprehended on 7 January 2012 as he returned to Gatwick Airport from a trip to St. Lucia and Jamaica.
SOCA’s subsequent enquiries found that Melius had organised four previous attempted importations between March 2010 and December 2011. These included a load of 1.4 tonnes of cannabis discovered at Tilbury docks in September 2011.
Brady, Terrelong and two other members of the crime group involved in the December 2011 importation, Manley Holness and Danny Christopher Williams, were jailed for a total of 44 years. Anthony Udi Thomas will be sentenced at a later date.
Following the trial at Reading Crown Court, SOCA’s Regional Head of Investigations, Paul Jenkins, said:
“Melius is a significant figure in international drug trafficking. He and the others sentenced today played a key role in importing cocaine and cannabis into the UK, and attempted to manipulate the legitimate trade in fresh produce to do so.”
“The vigilance of Border Force, combined with a multi-agency investigation led by SOCA, prevented them from importing large quantities of drugs which, when sold on the streets of the UK, would have damaged individuals and communities through drug abuse and associated criminality".
Assistant Director Peter Avery, Border Force Criminal and Financial Investigations, said:
“This was an audacious attempt to import significant quantities of cocaine and cannabis into the UK.
“These detections demonstrate the success we are having in combating smuggling and, working alongside SOCA and our other law enforcement colleagues, bringing these criminal gangs to justice.
“Border Force officers are on constant alert to keep illegal drugs and other banned substances out of the UK and take them out of the supply chain before they reach the streets.”
The investigation was additionally supported by Essex Police.