A desperate drug dealer jumped from a second-floor flat to try to escape from police, a court has heard.
Londoners Tapiwanashe Magejo and his co-defendant Ismail Mohammed were running a mobile phone for a county lines drug dealing gang known as the “Messi line” when Swansea officers came knocking.
Ian Wright, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court that on November 2 last year police in Swansea executed a search warrant at a property in Mansel Street in the city centre. He said at the flat was Magejo who went to “significant lengths” to avoid being arrested, jumping from a second-storey window to try to make his escape as officers went in through the front door. The 28-year-old defendant was injured making the leap and was arrested at the scene. Police initially believed he had concealed drugs internally and took him to hospital but no drugs were recovered.
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Inquiries led officers from Swansea to Mohammed’s home in Southall in London and the 33-year-old was arrested there on November 5. A search of his property uncovered “significant quantities” of cocaine, almost a kilo of a cutting agent, and a Nokia mobile phone. Mr Wright said that the phone was being used to operate a drug supply line known to police in Swansea as the Messi line.
The court heard investigators found that the two mobile phone masts most commonly used by the Messi number were the ones nearest the defendants’ respective homes while an analysis of mobile phone movements and information from automatic number plate recognition cameras showed the movements of Mohammed’s car closely mirrored the movements of the Messi phone including a trip from London to Swansea on October 30. The court also heard call data from the defendants’ personal mobiles showed they had been in regular contact.
Mr Wright said it was the prosecution case that both defendants were involved in supplying Class A drugs in Swansea and were jointly operating the Messi line to communicate with drug users in the city and to advertise their wares. He said the Messi phone number had sent out more than 5,200 messages in the months before police disrupted the operation with examples of messages sent by pair in September including “best of both” – a reference to both heroin and cocaine being available – as well as “on till late” and “on by the Ship” which is thought to be a reference to a location in Swansea. The prosecutor said it was accepted that there were likely to be others above the defendants in the chain of supply who had not been identified.
County lines is when criminals from major cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, London and Birmingham expand their drug networks to other areas of the country. This activity brings violence, exploitation and abuse to rural communities.
The crime is so-called because a single telephone number is used to order drugs, operated from outside the area, across county lines.
County line networks are having a massive impact on rural counties. Vulnerable children and adults are being recruited in our large cities to transport cash and drugs all over the country. This keeps the true criminals behind it detached from the act and less likely to be detected or caught.
These gangs often set up a base in a rural area for a short time, taking over the home of a vulnerable person (also known as “cuckooing”). They then use adults and children to act as drug runners.
The increase in activity around county lines is also believed to have contributed to the rise in knife crime.
The court heard that while dealing in Swansea Mohammed was being investigated for drug trafficking in London. These offences had came to light after police stopped a BMW in Twickenham Road in west London in October 2018. When the vehicle was searched officers recovered packages of heroin along with weighing scales, cling film, and a Nokia phone containing messages relating to drug dealing.
He was charged with the London offences in March 2020 and after failing to appear for a subsequent hearing at Isleworth Crown Court an arrest warrant was issued. The warrant was withdrawn when it emerged he had been unable to attend the court because he’d been arrested in relation to the Swansea Messi line matters.
Magejo, of Sussex Place, Slough, Berkshire, admitted being concerned in the supply of heroin and crack cocaine. Mohammed, of Barge Drive, Southall, London, admitted possession of heroin with intent to supply, possession of cocaine with intent to supply, and being concerned in the supply of heroin and cocaine. He has previous convictions for possession of heroin and crack cocaine with intent to supply, robbery, and attempted robbery.
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James Hartson, for Magejo, said the defendant had arrived in the UK from his native Zimbabwe at the age of 10 and after school had worked as a cleaner at Heathrow airport for seven years. He said his client had only recently become addicted to heroin and having done so quickly found himself in debt and drawn into dealing. The barrister called the operation the defendant had become involved in a “classic county lines case” and said there could be no doubt that Magejo would have been immediately replaced in the supply chain upon his arrest.
Natalie Carter, for Mohammed, said her client had asked her to “keep mitigation to minimum”. She said the defendant was fearful and reluctant to provide any information and wanted to “keep himself busy” learning in new skills while in custody and then put the matter behind him.
Judge Paul Thomas QC said it was clear both defendants had been involved in drug dealing in Swansea on a significant scale. He said: “You both need to be aware that people who come down from big cities like London to Swansea to sell Class A drugs can expect to be here for some time if they are caught.”
Giving Magejo credit for his guilty pleas the judge sentenced him to three years and nine months in prison. Giving Mohammed credit for his guilty pleas the judge sentenced him to a total of seven years and nine months in prison for the offences in London and Swansea. The defendants will serve up to half those periods in custody before being released on licence to serve the remainders in the communities.
South Wales Police were unable to provide a custody photograph of Tapiwanashe Magejo.
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