County lines drugs lord, 21, is jailed for 11 years after forcing army of child slaves in school uniforms to peddle £2million worth of crack cocaine
- Zain Khan, 21, boasted to police, ‘I earn more than you in my sleep’, during raid
- He and his brother Junaid, 20, forced children as young as 14 to push their drugs
- Seven other members of their gang were locked away for a total of 37 years
A county lines drugs lord who used 12 children as slaves in a £2million crack cocaine racket has been jailed for 11 years.
Zain Khan, 21, boasted to police, ‘I earn more than you in my sleep’, as detectives cracked down on his gang.
Khan and his brother Junaid, 20, forced children as young as 14 to push drugs on the streets – often just after they had finished school and were still in their uniforms.
But when police began dismantled the pair’s 15-month drug operation known as the ‘AK Line,’ remorseless Zain shamelessly turned up at the home of one of his team during a raid and began taunting police claiming he and brother were ‘untouchable.’
Zain Khan (left), 21, and his brother Junaid (right), 20, of Burnley, Lancashire, forced children as young as 14 to push drugs on the streets – often just after they had finished school and were still in their uniforms
In a rant at officers he bragged: ‘Yeah, you know you can’t touch us. Search us, do what you want I don’t carry nothing’ whilst Junaid boasted: ‘I run these blocks and have done since I was about 15.’
Both were arrested later following a major police operation against them.
Today the pair both of Burnley, Lancashire, were each jailed for 11 and a half years after admitting conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine. Seven other members of their gang were locked away for a total of 37 years.
The children used in the racket are now being counselled over their ordeals.
Officers recovered a silver Mercedes ‘stash car’, parked close to properties associated with the Khans, filled with drugs and money (pictured)
Officers also seized a Volkswagen Polo car used to store drugs and found £10,000 in cash. Pictured: Seized cash from the organised crime group
Sergeant Andrew Osbaldeston, of Lancashire Police, said after the hearing: ‘The Khan brothers thought they were untouchable and above the law but through dedicated police work and excellent surveillance, we have managed to bring them to justice and take the AK Line permanently offline.
‘I welcome today’s sentences and they send out a clear message that Lancashire Police will not tolerate organised crime groups operating in our communities and targeting and exploiting the most vulnerable in society.
‘What makes this case particularly abhorrent is that the gang not only knew they were using children to pedal their drugs, but they recruited them because of their age and vulnerability and the fact they were easy to exploit.
‘We need our communities across Lancashire to continue to alert us to potential drugs activity in their area so that we can investigate and bring organised gangs to justice, as well as safeguarding people, particularly children, who have been exploited and are victims.’
Alan Pickard (right), 49, was jailed for three years, Darren Catlow (left), 36, was jailed for four years
Preston Crown Court heard the Khan brothers directed a team of street dealers, including children, to sell crack cocaine and heroin on their behalf between May 2018 to August 2019.
During the conspiracy, drugs were distributed from Zain’s home to foot soldiers who in turn would bring back cash – at times stuffing bundles through his letter box.
Their gang also had a team of ‘lieutenants’ who were responsible for directing dealers where to sell drugs and ensuring they always had a ready supply. Two women and three men were recruited to supervise the children.
The teenagers, three aged just 14 and sometimes still in school uniform would arrive at a base used by the gang to collect drugs and then be dispatched by taxi to locations elsewhere in the Burnley area in order to conduct drug deals.
Preston Crown Court heard the Khan brothers directed a team of street dealers, including children, to sell crack cocaine and heroin on their behalf between May 2018 to August 2019. Pictured are drugs found in the ‘stash car’
The gang were placed under surveillance in an investigation named Operation Croatia. But whenever phones were seized, they would either quickly buy a new handset and register it under the same number or register a new number for the AK Line and then send out a message to customers advertising that they were ‘back in business’.
Significant quantities of heroin, crack cocaine and cash, as well as drug paraphernalia, drug dealer lists and mobile phones were seized from addresses and vehicles connected to the group.
On one occasion officers recovered a silver Mercedes ‘stash car’, parked close to properties associated with the Khans, filled with drugs and money.
Officers also seized a Volkswagen Polo car used to store drugs and found £10,000 in cash, as well as various amounts of crack cocaine and heroin pre-packaged for street deals. When police arrested an associate of the Khan brothers, both defendants turned up at the scene and began taunting officers.
Significant quantities of heroin, crack cocaine and cash (pictured), as well as drug paraphernalia, drug dealer lists and mobile phones were seized from addresses and vehicles connected to the group
Zain himself was arrested a few months later, on August 22, 2019, when officers conducted a series of raids at addresses across Burnley. He was found in possession of what was established to be the ‘AK line’ dealer phone and in excess of £10,000 cash in several packages.
Junaid was arrested on the same day at the home of a female member of the gang and a number of mobile phones were seized. Experts said at least 20kg of Class A drugs were peddled onto the streets of Burnley with an estimated value of £2million.
Police later contacted the local taxi licensing department over concerns about cabs being used to ferry youngsters to their drugs turf. Drivers were also warned to report suspected criminality and concerns about child criminal exploitation and told they could face prosecution if they knowingly played an active role in criminal activity.
Morgan Ellis (left), 21 and Gemma Jackson (right), 25, were each jailed for five and a half years
Sentencing Judge Simon Medland QC said: ‘It is plain to me on the general facts of this case that the impact of this offending has been both deep and very grave.’
Mohammed Jabbar, 22, was jailed for nine and a half years whilst Shohib Safdar, 20, got seven and a half years.
Morgan Ellis, 21 and Gemma Jackson, 25, were each jailed for five and a half years. Alan Pickard, 49, was jailed for three years, Darren Catlow, 36, was jailed for four years and Josh Jackson, 20, got two years. A warrant was issued for Tracey Brown, 49, who failed to come to court.
The gang, all from Burnley, either admitted drugs offences or were convicted by a jury. They will face a Proceeds of Crime hearing in March 2021.
Pictured: Drugs hidden in stash car and found by officers during a raid
Zain was found in possession of what was established to be the ‘AK line’ dealer phone
Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: ‘This is a great example of the excellent work being done by Lancashire officers to keep drugs off our streets and keep vulnerable people safe.
‘This operation has led to dangerous criminals who were blighting our streets and exploiting young people facing the justice they deserve. I hope this sends a clear message to those who are getting involved organised crime that the police have the resources, skills and determination to crack organisations like this and bring their members to justice.
‘The public should be re-assured that this type of high level investigation work is taking place. While it is not always visible it is happening and achieving real results like those we have seen in court today. I want to pay tribute to the hard work and determination of Lancashire investigators that have helped remove this criminal gang from our streets.’
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