A young father who imported more than £500,000 worth of drugs from China has been jailed.
Matthew Haining, of Roughlee Road, Accrington, made 59 payments to pharmaceutical companies using both his name and the names of family members and friends to ship the illegal highs into the UK.
The court was told that he initially believed the drugs were legal but carried on when he realised that they were not.
Burnley Crown Court heard how his older brother Thomas Haining also got involved in the operation by selling some of the imported class B drugs to family and friends in ‘street deals’.
Matthew Haining, 24, was jailed for five years and ten months after pleading guilty to three counts of importing class B drugs.
Thomas Haining, 27, of Grange Close, Oswaldtwistle, pleaded guilty to three counts of supplying class B drugs and one supplying count of cocaine. He was given a two-year jail term, suspended for two years with a four-month curfew and 200 hours unpaid work.
Emma Kehoe, prosecuting, told the court how Blackburn police were alerted by the UK Borders Agency after a ‘concerning’ number of parcels were noticed arriving in the UK.
The court heard how Matthew Haining paid for the drugs using cash payments from Western Union in China.
Warrants were issued at addresses in Baxenden, Oswaldtwistle and Accrington during May 2013.
Miss Kehoe told the court how in one house officers found cocaine in a bedroom in a void space behind a hidden wall panel, snap bags, drugs scales and cocaine belonging to Matthew Haining. They also recovered more snap bags used for ‘deals’ in a Vauxhall Corsa linked to Matthew Haining.
In another house they found drugs paraphernalia, computers and cash and in another property more drugs and documentation.
Miss Kehoe said Matthew Haining had made 11 payments to China under his name and used the name of another person 47 times. Thomas Haining used his name once at his brother’s request when challenged for identification at a travel agent kiosk in Asda, the court was told.
Miss Kehoe said just over £500,000 worth of drugs were imported into the country between June 2012 and May 2013.
The brothers made 'very serious mistakes'
Barrister Ian Whitehurst said the brothers had ‘made very serious mistakes’.
Defending Matthew Haining, he said the father-of-one ‘acted as a transit hub concerning the onward distribution of the drugs’ and the ‘vast majority were sold on a wholesale basis to Scotland’. He told the court that he ‘initially believed the drugs he imported were legal’ but still continued when he realised they were not.
He said: “His only interest in becoming involved was in effect to make money. There is a considerable amount of remorse and shame.
“Other people were arrested and investigated and placed on police bail.
“It was a mixture of naivety, youth and arrogance.” David Ryan, defending UCLAN student Thomas Haining, said he was ‘far less culpable than his brother’.
He said: “This was the defendant’s brother’s enterprise and not his. He believed they were legal highs but accepts when he was aware he sold the class B drugs to friends and family on a commercial basis.”
Mr Ryan said he sold cocaine only on a ‘handful of occasions’ and is ‘well liked and popular’.
A proceeds of crime hearing will be held on April 28.
'Dreadful consequences' - Judge
Recorder Sara Dodd said they were ‘very serious offences’ with ‘dreadful consequences’.
Sentencing Matthew Haining, she said: “I have no doubt from everything I’ve heard and read that the young man standing in front of me today is a very different young man to the one who involved himself in this operation.
“The vast majority of those drugs were not intercepted which means they reached the streets of this county, sold onwards by you to Scotland.
“You paid just over £32,000 for those drugs.
“That is a significant investment and realistically you must have been expecting a very significant financial return.
“I don’t know how you funded it, I’ve not been told what your rewards were, but looking at the potential street value of over £500,000 there are huge profit margins in this illegal business.
“You didn’t care the way you ran your business meant others were at risk and arrested and exposed to criminal proceedings. As a result three people were arrested all due simply to your greed.”
She told Thomas Haining that testimonials submitted to the court called him a ‘wonderful young man with many positive things’ and suspended his jail sentence.
'Hope it serves as warning to others' - Police
Det Con Duncan Whiteley of Blackburn CID said: “This week’s sentences followed a protracted two year investigation by intelligence teams which was greatly assisted by other agencies, including the Customs Drugs Investigation Unit, Financial Investigation, analysts and the Criminal Justice Service.
“Matthew and Thomas Haining carried out a well-planned and sophisticated operation importing drugs from China before supplying the products across the Accrington area.
“We welcome the judgment from the court and hope it serves as a warning to others carrying out similar operations across Lancashire.”