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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Adam Everett & Graeme Murray

Gangster twin's downfall after 'masterminding' gun and drug ring that made £300k a month

A gangster who ran a £300,000 a month gun and drug ring has finally faced his downfall.

Leon Cullen was a wanted man for two years in but was captured by cops in the United Arab Emirates in January 2020.

The 34-year-old was linked to several shootings and grenade attacks after he absconded..

But he was locked up in May last year after being given a 22-and-a-half year sentence.

The Liverpool Echo reports he was brought back before Liverpool Crown Court this week and ordered to repay a slice of his ill-gotten gains.

Leon and his brother Anthony were born in the summer of 1987 and grew up in Cheshire.

His sibling was described as being level-headed and popular, while Leon was known to be a volatile character.

Leon Cullen was arrested in Dubai in connection with serious and organised crime (Cheshire Police)
Anthony Cullen was found guilty of conspiracy to possess for sale prohibited firearms and ammunition (Liverpool Echo)

By their early 20s, the twins were well-established in criminal circles.

Leon "masterminded" an 18-man drugs cartel which shipped at least 5kg of cocaine worth around £300,000 across the North West over the course of six months.

Money was laundered through a business called Spot on Signs and spreadsheets on a laptop were later seized from the front company detailing debts of nearly £100,000 owed by other dealers.

But the operation began to crumble in late 2010 after a series of arrests and raids.

Cheshire Police’s Operation Cortex ultimately saw members of the organised crime group imprisoned for nearly 100 years. Leon, then aged 24, was locked up for nine years and eight months.

Anthony took over the running of the gang, but he was swiftly caught by police.

He received five-and-a-half years in 2012 after the force’s Operation Knock discovered a drugs factory in a caravan at a site in Rixton.

But he returned to the drugs trade after they were both released from prison.

A fresh police investigation centring on the Cullens opened in 2016 and found a business-like gang with a monthly wage bill of £50,000.

As a result, the 20-strong gang netted profits that peaked at £290,000 each month.

Leon bought a Maserati as his outfit supplied more than 50kg of cocaine over the course of 18 months.

But a series of dawn raids in January 2018, saw 19 properties in Warrington searched and 18 men arrested.

Leon Cullen's Rolex watch valued at £23,000 and £4,830 of money were seized by police when he was detained (Cheshire Police / SWNS)

He was not arrested, however and fled to the European mainland.

Anthony had been plotting to escape for Portugal but was detained in Dover.

More than £200,000 in cash and 3kg of drugs were seized from the Cullen gang mark two, as was the largest cache of working firearms discovered in Cheshire Police’s history.

Five guns and ammunition were recovered from the loft of an address in Carrington Park in July 2017, while another was discovered in a wicker basket at the foot of a bed.

The cache included a AK47, a pump action shotgun, automatic pistols and revolvers as well as a silencer.

Another deactivated revolver was discovered wrapped in cling film at a house in Latchford.

The weapons were made available for other gangs to hire for thousands of pounds.

Described as the gang's "controller and director", Anthony received 27 years behind bars in January 2019 after admitting conspiracy to supply cocaine and being convicted of conspiracy to supply firearms.

A billboard of Leon Cullen with mugshots showing how old he'll look when he finishes his jail sentence for running a drugs gang (Cheshire Police / SWNS)

Conspirators were also locked up for 185 years in total while others were later jailed after continuing the operation.

Those close to Leon Cullen later became the targets as a result of a reported £200,000 drug debt owed to a Salford-based gang.

And in January 2020, a trusted member of his inner circle was shot at in the street near a children’s playground in Carrington Park.

Cullen had spent time in Spain before moving to Dubai under a false identity and with a fake passport around early 2019.

As the two-year anniversary of his escape approached, detectives finally captured him leading to his downfall.

in January 2020, Cullen was held on an international arrest warrant wearing a £23,000 Rolex watch and with nearly £5,000 in cash.

He was held at gunpoint and beaten before being taken into custody and battered again.

Cullen spent 13 months in custody in the UAE, his head was shaved, and he was forced to wear robes and sandals.

In February last year, he was returned to the UK and admitted conspiracy to supply firearms, conspiracy to possess firearms and ammunition and conspiracy to supply cocaine.

Cullen appeared in court again on Monday under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The court heard that he personally benefited to the tune of £350,000 from the OCG.

A judge ordered £22,830.38 to be repaid by him during the hearing,

A five-year serious crime prevention order was also imposed, ensuring he must stick to strict conditions upon his eventual release.

Detective Inspector Rob Balfour, of Cheshire Police's serious and organised crime unit, said: “The criminal activity run by the Cullens has earned them and others at the top end of the organised crime group a considerable amount of money, from which they have lived a lavish lifestyle for a short time.

“I think the public expect us to recover ill-gotten gains, and rightly so. They don’t want to see drug dealers profiting from their criminality and it is only right that we recover what we can.

“It’s important to highlight the powers of the POCA and SCPOs to help deter and prevent criminals from returning to organised crime, but also to young men who look up to and are influenced by people like Leon."

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