Pair sentenced for £28.5m cocaine conspiracy

Two international drug smugglers have been sentenced for their roles in a conspiracy to import millions of pounds worth of cocaine from Los Angeles to Bexhill and London.

Rorey Rose and Solomon Cobourne played key roles in importing cocaine with an estimate street value of £28.5 million between February 2011 and June 2014.

34-year-old Rose, of Harlesden High Street, North West London, was sentenced at Brighton Crown Court on Wednesday (January 28) to 14 years imprisonment. He will also be deported to his native Jamaica on his release from prison.

35-year-old Cobourne, of Ealing Road, Brentford, West London, who failed to turn up for the trial in November last year, was sentenced to 20 years in his absence and is still being hunted by police in Britain and the Caribbean.

Both were also subjected to Serious Crime Prevention Orders (SCPO) severely restricting their access to computers, mobile phones, and cash.

The sentencings result from an investigation, codenamed Operation Bronzo, by Detective Constable Dom Marini from the Sussex Police Serious Organised Crime Unit into the distribution of cocaine in the Bexhill area between 2011 and 2014.

Between June and September 2011, 15 identical FedEx packages were delivered to three separate addresses in Bexhill.

The last package was intercepted by police and a dummy package delivered in its place. The intercepted package was found to contain a kilo of cocaine at 90 percent purity and valued at £178,200 in potential street value. The organisers used a local criminal network to receive and distribute the drugs.

Police enquiries soon established that the actual intended recipient for the intercepted package was Rose.

Several days before the delivery of the dummy package, Rose had been seen with another man at an address in Bexhill.

After the pair left police executed a Misuse of Drugs Act warrant and recovered a quantity of crack cocaine.

Rose then disappeared from Bexhill and was circulated as wanted by Sussex Police. In December 2013 he was stopped by police in London and arrested for unrelated road traffic offences. He was then further arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to import cocaine. His flat was searched and evidence seized. Examination of his mobiles identified relevant US contacts and text messages.

Authorities in the US confirmed that one of the US contacts in his phone was subject of a joint Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Los Angeles law enforcement investigation into cocaine being shipped to the UK via FedEx fast courier service.

Text message content confirmed that large sums of cash had been sent to Los Angeles, California via Western Union and Money Gram. Police enquiries identified 123 separate cash transfers totalling £259,352.94 sent from London NW10 to Los Angeles between February 2011 and June 2014.

Authorities in Los Angeles confirmed that the US contact was going to Money Service Businesses to collect the cash transfers. The US contact was being paid via cash transfer for each kilo of cocaine that he shipped to the UK and had shipped one or two packages per week to the UK, each believed to contain kilo quantities of cocaine.

At the court hearing on January 28, Judge Niblett accepted an inference from the prosecution that over the course of the conspiracy between February 2011 and June 2014 an estimated £28.5 million of cocaine in street value had been imported into the UK overall.

Enquiries regarding the cash transfers culminated in several arrests in London. Five people - four women and a man - from North West and West London are now awaiting trial at Brighton Crown Court on May 18 this year, charged with money laundering a total of £130,000.

On August 22 this year Solomon Cobourne was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to import cocaine. He was linked to the FedEx importation into Bexhill in 2011 and had sent large cash transfers to the US contact via women he was associated with in London.

On November 3 Rose pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine and on November 10 the trial of Cobourne and a co-defendant began but Cobourne failed to attend and the judge issued a warrant for his arrest.

On November 24 he was convicted in his absence. His co-defendant Dwain Fuller was acquitted.

Detective Constable Dom Marini said: “This has been a complex investigation which has taken over three years and has involved close co-operation with law enforcement in the UK, the United States, and Jamaica.

“It became clear that we were dealing with international criminality which aimed to spread dangerous drugs in London and the Bexhill area, an avenue of supply that has now been completely stopped.”

Detectives are still looking for Cobourne. He is described as black, 6’, of slim build, with a pierced left ear, and a Jamaican accent. He may be in the north-west London area where he has friends, but might have gone to Jamaica, where active enquiries are currently being made. Through the UK National Crime Agency he has been circulated as wanted via Interpol.

DC Dom Marini said: “If you can help find Cobourne email us on 101@sussex.pnn.police.uk or call us on 101 quoting Operation Bronzo. You can also call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”