A man found with 2kg of cocaine wrapped up in a Tesco carrier bag under the seat of his van blew a kiss in court after being sentenced. Thomas Kehoe, 29, was sentenced at court on Friday (August 12) for a catalogue of charges relating to drug activity.
Oliver King, prosecuting, said that Kehoe, was linked by police to a regional drug ring called the “Josh Team”, which was flooding Class A substances from Merseyside into Cheshire. Mr King told the court that Kehoe had first caught the attention of officers in Birmingham on February 18 when he was noticed making numerous short stops in various residential areas.
The van entered a cul-de-sac and parked up. When Kehoe emerged, a detective approached to speak to him, but Kehoe saw them, jumped back in and tried to drive off, according to Cheshire Live.
Another police car pulled across his path, “boxing him in”, so Kehoe abandoned the van and ran away. Under the passenger seat, officers found a “Tesco carrier bag with 2kg of cocaine” inside, and Kehoe’s fingerprints on the outside. The drugs were valued at around £50,000-£60,000.
Cheshire Constabulary investigators working on “Operation Toxic” identified a pay-as-you-go graft phone number as linked to the Josh Team, and tracked down CCTV footage of Kehoe paying to top up its credit at a shop in Liverpool.
The phone had been used to send flare messages advertising Class A drug sales, namely heroin and crack cocaine, in Runcorn. Kehoe was identified as the phone’s holder because “the most frequent number was to call his girlfriend”. A second graft phone was also linked to Kehoe, reported Liverpool Echo. His drug-dealing activities came to a crashing halt when he drove a stolen motorbike into a car on Halton Road in Runcorn on June 9.
Kehoe was arrested and later pleaded guilty to: possession with intent to supply Class A cocaine relating to the Birmingham bust, driving without due care and attention, uninsured driving, driving disqualified, driving other than in accordance with a licence, attempting to possess Class B amphetamines, and being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs crack cocaine and heroin spanning September 2021 to June 2022.
Mr King said Kehoe had nine previous convictions for 15 offences including a jail term for cocaine and heroin supply, and although he described Kehoe as a “courier”, he said graft phones were a “valued and prized possession” that indicated a significant or leading role. Recorder Mark Ainsworth concurred the graft phone is the “hub of activity” for a drug ring.
Keith Jones, defending, said Kehoe’s “best mitigation” was his guilty pleas, which would reduce his sentence by a third. Mr Jones said Kehoe became involved in selling drugs due to being addicted himself and a drug debt, adding there were still people “knocking at his mother’s door, his partner’s door” in relation to that, in addition to “incidents in prison when he’s had to defend himself as a result of the money on his head”.
He said Kehoe has been offered money to “carry out a similar attack on somebody else to have his debt reduced”. Mr Jones presented a letter from Kehoe to the judge for him to read also, but said his client did not want updated medical details of his injuries following the crash to be provided, and wished to be sentenced instead of waiting to obtain an update.
Recorder Ainsworth expressed sympathy for Kehoe’s family circumstances, but dismissed arguments that his drug activity amounted to “lesser role”, noting Kehoe had graft phones and 2kg of cocaine - meaning he was “in it, you’re not peripheral”. The judge sentenced Kehoe to five years and four months in prison, with four months concurrent for driving disqualified.
He banned Kehoe from driving for a period of 12 months, to start upon his release. Sending him down, Recorder Ainsworth said: “Let me make myself clear. I don’t regard you as a victim in this case. Yes, there were pressures upon you, but you chose to act in this way, and finally pass the misery onto other people.”
The judge approved the forfeiture and destruction of the drugs and phones, and ordered a statutory surcharge. Kehoe blew a kiss to the public gallery before he headed down to the cells.
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