FIVE people have been jailed for their part in the supply of heroin and crack cocaine into Aberystwyth - with a judge warning drugs have reached 'epidemic' levels in the town.

The five men were jailed despite no illegal substances being seized by police.

Dyfed-Powys Police’s specialist drugs investigation team was able to prove a county line was running between Wolverhampton and Ceredigion thanks to in-depth analysis of data phone phoned used by an organised crime gang.

The investigation – labelled Operation Knoxhill – began in June 2020 when police were called to a disturbance at a flat in Aberystwyth and found two teenage boys, one of whom had been reported missing.

It was established that members of a gang operating from the West Midlands had ‘cuckooed’ the address of local heroin user Glenn Williams.

The two teenagers – Kyran Hill and Teejay Marks, both aged 16 at the time – were sent to live there, acting as ‘runners’ for gang members higher up the chain.

Detective Sergeant Steve Jones, of Ceredigion Priority Policing Team, said: “Cuckooing is a term used when drugs gangs take over the home of a vulnerable person to establish a base for dealing, storing or taking illegal drugs.

“In this instance, they had targeted Glenn Williams, convincing him to agree to letting them live at his home by offering heroin for his own use. In exchange, he was told to ‘keep them in’ and ‘keep them safe’ while they dealt drugs from his home.

“He told officers they would have drugs out on the table at his home – evidence gathered later corroborated this – and that they stayed until they ran out of drugs. During this time they used him as a runner for deals arranged by their upstream controller.”

When officers arrived at Williams’ flat on June 19, they found the occupant on the street. He told police he had been ‘exploited’, and that he wanted Hill and Marks out of his flat.

“Officers had spotted Williams the previous evening meeting with a man called Akeel Whistance,” DS Jones said.

“We believe he was spooked by our presence and reacted by throwing a package of drugs over a wall. When he returned to the flat empty handed, the others accused him of either smoking drugs worth £2,000 that night or hiding them somewhere for himself.

“It was this disturbance that led to us being called.”

When questioned by officers, Hill and Marks claimed to have been kidnapped and taken to Aberystwyth, however 51-year-old Williams’ account was that they had moved in to supply drugs.

Examinations of the teenagers’ showed the pair had travelled to Aberystwyth in the company of Kalvin Riley, aged 23, and Frank Keli, aged 26 on June 15, 2020. During their journey, a number of short phone calls were made from one number to Williams and Marks, before a text message reading ‘Live best of both 24/7’ was sent to 15 different numbers in 58 seconds.

Further digital analysis proved Riley and Keli travelled back to Wolverhampton the following day, while Hills and Marks sent photos of cash and ziplock bags containing wraps of white and brown substances on Snapchat.

The words ‘intent to supply class A drugs’ were overlaid on one photo, and the pair could be seen and heard in videos counting cash and giggling. Further videos showing conversations between the pair and Williams relating to the supply of drugs were found on a phone belonging to Marks.

When officers examined Whistance’s phone, he was found to have facilitated the transfer of money earned through the supply of drugs back to the group, and resupplied ‘runners’ with drugs.

A drugs expert described the nature of messages found on the suspects’ phones as being ‘commonly encountered’ in drugs supply cases.

Through the use of data recovered from digital devices, along with associated call data, sufficient evidence was gathered to prove conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine without the seizure of controlled drugs. All six members of the organised crime gang were charged and pleaded guilty to a number of drug-related offences.

They appeared at Swansea Crown Court between January 19 and February 28, 2024, and were sentenced as follows:

Frank Keli, of Ashbourne Road, Wolverhampton: Three years in prison for conspiracy to supply ‘crack’ cocaine and heroin.

Kalvin Riley, of Millwalk Drive, Wolverhampton: Three years and three months for conspiracy to supply ‘crack’ cocaine and heroin.

Akeel Whistance, of Llanfihangel-Y-Creuddyn: Two-and-a-half years in prison for conspiracy to supply ‘crack’ cocaine and heroin.

Kyran Lee Hill, of Three Tuns Lane, Wolverhampton: 12 months in a Youth Offenders’ Institute for conspiracy to supply ‘crack’ cocaine and heroin.

Teejay Marks, of Hamilton Gardens, Wolverhampton: 12 months in a Youth Offenders’ Institute for conspiracy to supply ‘crack’ cocaine and heroin

Glen Lewis Williams, of Brynrheidol, Aberystwyth: 18 months suspended sentence for conspiracy to supply ‘crack’ cocaine and heroin.

Passing sentence in Swansea Crown Court, Judge Geraint Walters said as a judge who sits in Crown Court week in week out he knew "Class A drugs in Aberystwyth have reached epidemic levels" with criminal gangs "peddling misery" on the streets of the university and seaside town.

He added that those who deal in Class A drugs know what sentence awaits when they are caught and he described dealing as a "mug's game".

DS Jones said: “This is a fantastic result as we have been able to take out a group of men who were actively supplying crack cocaine and heroin into Ceredigion, despite there being no drugs in their possession when they were arrested.

“This conviction and sentencing is testament to the work of a number of teams across the force, from the initial response teams, intelligence and digital forensics, to analysts and proactive drugs units.”

Recent figures from Dyfed-Powys Police show more powder cocaine was seized in their area in 2022-23 than the year before, new figures show. Figures from the Home Office show 66 kilogrammes of powder cocaine were seized by Dyfed-Powys Police in 298 operations in the year to March 2023.

This was up from a year earlier, when 1.3 kilogrammes were seized.

Police forces across England and Wales have seen powder cocaine seizures double – 3,360 kilogrammes were seized in the year to March, up from 1,680 kilogrammes the year before.

There were 2,060 drug seizures by Dyfed-Powys Police last year, a rise from 1,619 the year before.

This included the confiscation of 2,994 cannabis plants, 43.1 kilogrammes of herbal cannabis and 2.6 kilogrammes of cannabis resin.

The force also seized 70 grams of crack cocaine.

By comparison, the UK Border Force of nearly 1,900 kilogrammes, with 15,219 kilogrammes confiscated over the same period.

Frank Keli
Frank Keli.jpg (Dyfed-Powys Police)
Kalvin Riley
Kalvin Riley (Dyfed-Powys Police)
Akeel Whistance
Akeel Whistance (Dyfed-Powys Police)
Kyran Hill
Kyran Hill (Dyfed-Powys Pollice)

As a result, there was a small drop in the amount of cocaine taken from criminals last year – despite being the second highest volume on record.

Teejay Marks (Dyfed-Powys Police)

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for drugs, Chief Constable Richard Lewis, said the increase in seizures by police forces was "a real positive".

"By taking more drugs out of circulation, we are stripping organised criminals of their assets and preventing them from investing the profits into further, more dangerous and harmful crime," he said.