A mum who wore a pink unicorn onesie was found inside a vulnerable woman’s home she had taken over to deal drugs. Gita Fritdenberga was previously part of a gang which flooded the streets of Sefton, Liverpool with heroin and crack cocaine.
After serving a prison sentence for those crimes, the 37-year-old, of Princes Road, Toxteth, claimed she tried to turn her life around for her child. But after the death of her boyfriend de ella in jail, and losing her job at a Liverpool hotel, she moved to Warrington, and soon started dealing again.
Liverpool Crown Court heard police raid a three-storey house on Thorneycroft Drive, just after midday, on March 9 this year. Jonathan Rogers, prosecuting, said the occupier was “largely bedridden” after a car crash in 2018 and lived mostly on the top floor.
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He said the woman, who the ECHO has chosen not to name, had a colostomy bag fitted and required daily help. Mr Rogers said: “At the time of the offenses she did not feel she had control over her house, with people bringing their friends, who would stay. She comments she would struggle to get rid of them. The prosecution simply say this was a case of cuckooing.”
“Cuckooing” refers to the practice of criminals taking over vulnerable people’s homes to use as a base for activity related to drug supply. It takes the name from cuckoos who take over the nests of other birds.
Mr Rogers said when officers entered the house they found Fritdenberga sitting in a lounge “wearing a pink unicorn onesie”. Mr Rogers said she appeared “fidgety and on edge” and was placed in a bedroom, while her mobile phone received notifications from her.
He said Fritdenberga was then seen to throw herself back on a bed and appeared to put something down the side of its mattress. There, officers found 44 wraps of heroin and 84 wraps of crack cocaine, with a total estimated street value of £1,280.
When arrested and interviewed, Fritdenberga denied the drugs were hers. At the start of the hearing she admitted she possessing crack cocaine and heroin with intent to supply.
The court heard Fritdenberga was previously jailed for three years for supplying drugs in Latvia in 2014. In July 2016, the mum, then of Lonsdale Road, Bootle, was jailed for three years for conspiring to supply Class A drugs in Southport, Waterloo and Seaforth .
However, despite those previous convictions, the court heard she was not to be sentenced for a third Class A drug trafficking offence, which would have meant a mandatory minimum sentence of at least seven years in prison. Mr Rogers said: “We have checked, my learned friend and I, and the defendant isn’t a third striker, mainly because of Brexit.”
Sarah Griffin, defending, accepted her client’s previous convictions were an aggravating feature of the case. Ms Griffin said: “She and the father of her now seven-year-old child both went to prison together, obviously separate prisons, on the last occasion for her drugs conviction de ella …
“While in prison, the father of her child hung himself. That was approximately five years ago. Since that date, the defendant’s mental health has deteriorated significantly.”
Ms Griffin said on her release from that sentence, Fritdenberga got a job at the Hotel Novotel in Liverpool city centre, but still struggled with her mental health and one anniversary of her former partner’s death she tried to kill herself. She said Fritdenberga “did her very best to turn her life around” and gained contact with her child from her, only to lose the job when the pandemic hit.
Ms Griffin said even though she was legally in the country at that point, she didn’t have settled status and wasn’t entitled to benefits, but Liverpool council found a home for her. However, she told the court a “former abusive partner got back in touch and made her life extremely difficult in Liverpool”, so as a result she moved to Warrington.
Ms Griffin said there Fritdenberga got a job at a fish and chip shop, earning £50 a day, and had “just about managed to keep her life on track”, but the shop closed down, and without work, she started selling Class A drugs. The lawyer said Fritdenberga did this for little financial benefit other than to fund her own habit de ella and earn “a little amount of money to make ends meet”.
Ms Griffin said when the father of her child killed himself in prison, Fritdenberga had tried to as well, and she was having a difficult time back in prison. She added her client’s brother de ella had died two weeks ago from alcoholism in Russia, Fritdenberga had no contact with her child de ella, and ella had n’t been able to take part in work or education courses at HMP Styal, due to having to repeatedly isolate.
Judge Garrett Byrne said he was not going to lecture Fritdenberga about the “great harm” that Class A drugs do to society. He said: “Needless to say, they cause a great deal of pain and cause a great deal of cost, which we all have to pick up.”
The judge said Fritdenberga’s previous convictions aggravated her position and she had “little mitigation” in his view. He said: “You have experienced some challenging things in your life. But so do many people and they don’t resort to selling drugs.”
Judge Byrne jailed Fritdenberga for three years and nine months, as she was raised on a video link from HMP Styal.