Drug dealers jailed for 37 years over county lines crimes which exploited trafficked children
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Two men have been sentenced to 37 years in prison after being convicted of creating and controlling a ‘county line’ drug supply operation, bringing crack cocaine and heroin into Northampton from London and trafficking three vulnerable children to sell the drugs on.
Between April and September 2021, Leon Johnson, aged 35, and Kwesi Asiedu, aged 36, brought the drugs into the county from Hackney, and made the teenagers from London and Bedford work for them in Northampton.
Following a six-week trial at Northampton Crown Court earlier this year, Johnson, of Yorkshire Close, Hackney, and Asiedu, of Jenner Road, Hackney, were both convicted of conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
Asiedu was further convicted of arranging or facilitating the travel of three children aged 14, 15 and 17, with a view to their exploitation, under the Modern Day Slavery Act 2015.
Johnson was also convicted of arranging or facilitating the travel of two of these children, aged 15 and 17, with a view to their exploitation.
The pair’s illegal activity in the county began in March 2021, when they both travelled to Northampton to activate the ‘Chief’ line, sending bulk text messages to drug users in the town advertising Class A drugs for sale.
They then left the street supply activity to a 15-year-old girl from Bedford, who they had recruited to carry the drugs and sell them on their behalf.
In May 2021 the girl was arrested in possession of thousands of pounds worth of crack cocaine and heroin, the wrappings of which had Leon Johnson’s fingerprints on.
Two weeks later, a 17-year-old boy from Hackney, who had been reported missing by his parents, was arrested in Northampton in possession of a large amount of street deals of heroin and crack cocaine.
An investigation by Northamptonshire Police identified that both the children were supplying drugs for the Chief line, which Asiedu and Johnson were controlling from Hackney.
Evidence showed that only a few days before his arrest, the 17-year-old had been driven from Hackney and left in Northampton by Asiedu and Johnson, who gave him Class A drugs to sell.
In July 2021 the 15-year-old girl was arrested again in possession of thousands of pounds worth of heroin and crack cocaine, which had Asiedu’s fingerprints on the wrappings.
Then in August 2021, a 14-year-old boy from Hackney, also reported missing by his parents, was found in Northampton with Chief line flyers advertising the sale of class A drugs in his pocket. Evidence showed he had been in possession of the Chief line phone and was involved in the supply of drugs.
It was shown to the court that Asiedu had travelled from Hackney to Northampton with this missing boy a matter of days before he was found in the town.
Johnson was arrested in September 2021, with thousands of pounds worth of heroin and crack cocaine found hidden in his car and at his girlfriend’s flat in Northampton.
Asiedu handed himself in to a London police station when he became aware police were looking for him.
Both entered not guilty pleas at court, with the subsequent trial jury hearing evidence linking both men to the running of the Chief line and the related recruitment and exploitation of the children.
The court also heard that both defendants have a catalogue of previous convictions for supplying class A drugs.
On February 24, 2023, the jury found both defendants guilty of both the Class A drug supply and modern-day slavery and human trafficking charges.
Following a Northamptonshire Police investigation, Kwesi Asiedu has been sentenced to 10 years for conspiracy to supply class A drugs and a further nine years for conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of another with a view to exploitation, to be served consecutively.
At Northampton Crown Court on Monday, July 3, Her Honour Judge Adrienne Lucking sentenced Asiedu to 10 years for conspiracy to supply class A drugs and a further nine years for conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of another with a view to exploitation. His sentences will run consecutively, giving a total of 19 years imprisonment, of which 11 years will be served in prison.
Johnson was sentenced to 10 years for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and a further eight years for conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of another with a view to exploitation. These sentences will also run consecutively, giving a total of 18 years imprisonment of which 10 years and four months will be served in prison.
Speaking afterwards, Detective Sergeant Keith Morson, of the Serious and Organised Crime Team which led the investigation, said: “This was a highly intricate investigation crossing numerous county borders, that identified Johnson and Asiedu as the owners of the Chief line and recruiters of vulnerable children, who were callously exploited and put at severe risk purely for their financial gain, with no thought of the criminal or psychological consequences for the children or their parents and families.
“The severe sentences in this case reflect the seriousness and gravity of the offences and should act as a deterrent for anyone engaging in such repulsive criminality, which adversely affects so many lives.
“All involved in the investigation and in particular, the officer in the case, Detective Sergeant Emma Howe, have shown complete dedication and professionalism to secure the convictions of these career criminals.”
DS Howe added: “This was a complex investigation involving a lot of hard work and teamwork by different departments within Northamptonshire Police, in particular our analytical, intelligence and digital teams. I am relieved that these criminals have been convicted, making Northamptonshire a safer place to live.”
Detective Inspector Carrie Powers, of the Serious and Organised Crime Team, added: “Northamptonshire Police is committed to dismantling county lines networks through the targeting of offenders and the safeguarding of victims.
“This case demonstrates that we will work tirelessly to prosecute criminals for drug dealing and child trafficking under modern slavery laws, to reflect the devastating nature of their exploitation of young and vulnerable people.
“I would like to personally congratulate the many people from numerous departments within Northamptonshire Police involved in this investigation, especially DS Morson and DS Howe, for their relentless investigation and dedication to this case.”
Leon Johnson was sentenced to 10 years for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and a further eight years for conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of another with a view to exploitation, to be served consecutively.