Rhys Johnson and Michael Mcdonnell. Picture: Met Police
October 23, 2023
A ‘county lines’ drug gang has received jail sentences totalling over 39 years after it was found they used children to carry drugs to the Home Counties.
The operation included members from Greenford, Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush with the west London end of organisation run by 30-year-old Rhys Johnson from Acton. He was jailed for 16 years on Friday 20 October for drugs and modern slavery offences along with four others after it was found that the gang had made a 15-year-old boy bring drugs from west London to Hampshire.
The boy had been reported missing in September 2021 and was eventually located by Metropolitan Police officers in Andover in Hampshire. He was found to be in possession of wraps of crack cocaine and heroin, ready for sale and it was established the address he was discovered in was linked to 27-year-old Jordan Barnes.
The child was being exploited to act as a “runner” on a county line and further investigations determined that he had travelled in a car driven by 31-year-old Michael Mcdonnell of Ruislip Road in Greenford, accompanied by Johnson, 18-year-old Jaion Jacobs of The Square on Fulham Palace Road in Hammersmith and 17-year-old Miguel Fiorenzi of the Cleverly Estate on Wormholt Road in Shepherd’s Bush.
Subsequent enquiries identified a safe house in High Wycombe, controlled by Johnson and Mcdonnell. When this property was searched, police discovered large amount of Class A drugs, valued at around £40,000, a high-value Rolex watch, cash and correspondence relating to Johnson and Mcdonnell.
All five men were arrested and charged with various offences including drug supply and modern slavery. During their trial it was heard that the boy was groomed by Jacobs and Fiorenzi before they introduced him to Johnson for the purpose of being a drugs runner.
Jaion Jacobs and Miguel Fiorenzi. Picture: Met Police
Johnson and Mcdonnell were both sentenced to over 16 years and Jacobs and Barnes received two years and six months while Fiorenzi got a two-year suspended sentence.
Police Constable Tom Quinn, leading the investigation said, “We know all too well that drugs are linked to violence in our London communities and ruthless criminals exploit children or vulnerable people to help carry out their crimes.
“This investigation is an excellent example of how our Met officers have successfully dismantled an organised gang who coordinated the distribution of drugs through the exploitation of children. Through the hard work and diligence of our team, we managed to secure a lengthy sentence for drug supply and modern slavery offences, as well as safeguarding the victim and ensuring they receive the support needed.”
The sentences came after the Met announced the results of a week of action to tackle county lines drug dealing which resulted in more than 290 arrests, 110 people safeguarded, the seizure of 16.9kg worth of suspected drugs and the closure of 92 drug lines.
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