‘Two-Hour Tony’ drugs gang jailed after cops discovered den where crack and heroin were packed up for sale

Five members of a drugs gang dubbed ‘Two-Hour Tony’ have been jailed after police uncovered the den where they packed up heroin and crack ready for sale. Chester Crown Court heard how the organized crime group (OCG) was busted when police raided a flat on Runcorn on November 23 last year, the Echo reports.

Inside officers discovered mixing agents plus 88.7 grams of crack and heroin, estimated to have a potential value of between £4,980 and £9,680. Michael Crothers, 25, of Heathgate Avenue, Speke, and Michael Bethell, 30, of Elstead Road, Walton were arrested at the scene.

A table in the flat was “clearly” being used for drugs to be “adulterated and refilled in the packages” for onward distribution. That same day police stopped a car driven by Alan Brewer, 41, of Colworth Road, Speke, alongside Liam Malvern , 21, of Townsend Lane, Tuebrook, that officers had been seen arriving at the block.

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Malvern had 26 £10 wraps of crack cocaine and one £10 wrap of heroin plus £809 in cash. A fifth member of the group, Benjamin Humphries, 21, of Alderwood Avenue, Speke, was arrested separately.

Siôn ap Mihangel, prosecuting, said a police drug expert estimated the illegal enterprise sold between half a kilo and a kilo of crack and heroin over the 50 days of the conspiracy, with a potential value of between £50,000 and £100,000 after mixing with adulterants , and selling between 100 and 200 wraps a day.

Brewer acted as driver and would drop off Malvern and Humphries who sold drugs to users in their homes, before they would return to Waterbridge Mews to restock. Two “graft phones” used by the group sent a staggering 7,613 flare messages to potential buyers in Warrington during the course of the conspiracy from October 4 to November 23, which the court heard was an average of 152 a day, albeit not all resulting in to go out

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Michael Crothers, 25, of Heathgate Avenue, Speke, was jailed for six years and nine months, for his “leading” role in the conspiracy

Mr ap Mihangel said Crothers played a “leading role” and controlled the graft numbers and would travel to and from the flat with the phone and drugs before they were packed and sold on by dealers “under his direction”. Bethell also played a “leading role” and was living in the flat at Waterbridge Mews and would “assist in cooking the cocaine into crack and adulterating and bagging heroin” as well as supplying dealers and maintaining with the other OCG members.

Brewer was the driver and made “daily” trips, while Humphries was a “runner” and would travel as a passenger and supply drugs to users in their homes. Mr ap Mihangel said Malvern appeared to take over that role part-way through October.

Class A drugs wrapped for sale. DNA belonging to Bethell and Crothers was found on the packaging materials

All five pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to supply a Class A drug, namely heroin and crack cocaine. Bethell also faced sentence for one charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH) for punching a punter outside The Cornerhouse pub in Widnes in an unconnected incident in the early hours of August 7.

Chester Crown Court heard Bethell punched Sam Corker who had returned to look for his jacket and while looking for a friend “noticed a male with his right arm back and fist clenched”. After suffering the blow, he recalled being “picked up” by another man, “put in a car and driven home by that male”.

Liam Malvern, 21, of Townsend Lane, Tuebrook, jailed for 67 months for two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, namely heroin and crack

Mr Corker was “coughing and spitting out blood”, had “blood all over his face” and thought his tooth had been knocked out. The next day he sought medical treatment having suffered a “split lip, cracked tooth and a bruised nose”. Bethell was identified from CCTV and pleaded guilty to ABH.

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Mr ap Mihangel went through the defendants’ previous convictions. Brewer had five convictions for 10 offenses including drug supply dating back to 2001. Crothers had four convictions for nine offenses including crack and heroin supply and Class B cannabis supply – both times receiving a suspended sentence.

Inside the Class A drug-packing flat on Waterbridge Mews in Castlefields, Runcorn

Malvern had six convictions for 13 offenses including possession of a bladed article and being concerned in the supply of Class A heroin and crack, and another drug supply matter meaning he faced a mandatory minimum seven-year third-strike sentence. Bethell had 37 convictions for 58 offenses including simple drug possession and ABH. Humphries had a previous conviction for supplying cocaine, heroin and cannabis, for which he received a prison sentence from which he was only “shortly released” when he was arrested over the Runcorn-Warrington conspiracy.

Martyn Walsh, defending Bethell, said his client was in a steady relationship and had two young children and no previous convictions for drug supply. He conceded Bethell’s DNA was found on the knots of the drug wraps but said this indicated a more operational than leading role.

Benjamin Humphries, 21, of Alderwood Avenue, Speke, jailed for 63 months for his role as a “runner” and dealer

Ben Jones, for Crothers, said his client was facing his first spell in prison, adding the drug ring was not of the same magnitude as some bigger cases. He added the Two-Hour Tony group had not resorted to infamous county lines tactics such as recruiting juveniles or taking over vulnerable people’s homes in the form of “cuckooing”.

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Peter Killen, speaking on behalf of Brewer, said his client indicated his guilty pleas early. He said Brewer was the driver and “not in control” of the drug ring, adding that until 2018 Brewer was employed as a metal worker but became a taxi driver due to the “flexibility” it offered, but was then hit by the Covid pandemic’s financial impact. Brewer was also “remorseful and sorry.”

Katy Laverty, representing Malvern, said he only participated for part of the conspiracy, was a “runner” with a “limited role” and his involvement reflected his “immaturity”. Julian Farley, defending Humphries, said his involvement was for a “limited period of time” as a runner.

Alan Brewer, 41, of Colworth Road, Speke, former metal worker and taxi driver, jailed for 54 months for his role as a driver in the conspiracy

Recorder Mark Ford, sitting, asked if Humphries wanted to refer to an assessment that placed him on the autistic spectrum but Mr Farley said Humphries had declined. The judge approved the seizure of the cash and destruction of the drugs, paraphernalia and Brewer’s TAG watch.

Recorder Ford sentenced Bethell to seven years and 10 months in prison including four months’ consecutive for ABH, Crothers to six years and nine months, Brewer to four years and six months, Malvern to five years and seven months, and Humphries to five years and three months. The prosecution sought no Proceeds of Crime Act application.

Branding the group’s activities a “sophisticated and efficiently managed conspiracy to supply drugs”, Recorder Ford said: “This case may not bear the hallmarks of the most serious county lines operations in the sense there’s no evidence of, for example, cuckooing whereby the premises of vulnerable individuals are taken over through force of coercion or where juveniles are engaged to further the interests of the conspiracy but this is naturally a serious matter and sentences of immediate custody will follow.”

Commenting on the argument that the case was not as serious as those associated with Operation Venetic, he said: “This is still an operation that generated significant profits and in the course of doing so will have resulted in the hardship and misery associated with addictive drugs like heroin and cocaine.”

The operation to bring the Two-Hour Tony group to court was carried out by Cheshire Police.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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