OFFICERS investigating a major drugs ring operating across Cornwall managed to foil a plot to imprison a man and beat him for a drug debt by recording a series of incriminating conversations.
At Truro Crown Court on Friday, Adam Petrauske, James Strain, Neil Clarke and Henry Tydeman were sentenced a total of eight years imprisonment for their parts in drug-related activities in Cornwall.
The police investigation that led to the convictions, named Operation Ipanema Phase ii, was formed during the first phase of Operation Ipanema, which focused on organised crime in the Falmouth area and saw 21 people receive sentences of more than 100 years imprisonment in June.
Officers caught the second round of defendants by placing a recording device into the car of ringleader Angelo Kortje, who has since absconded to Spain and is wanted by police.
On April 6, 2011, Kortje was found to be driving down to Cornwall to check on a cannabis grow in Penzance, which was due to be harvested.
Bathsheba Cassel, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “At the same time there was a drug debt that Kortje was inclined to enforce in the St Austell area.”
She said Strain, 26, of St John’s Place, West Yorkshire, and Clarke, 32, of Wellington Street, Birkenshaw, were hired to imprison the man, who cannot be named because police fear a reprisal attack, use violence against him and get the money from the drug debt.
Officers were able to listen into conversations had by the three men in the car, which detailed the St Austell plan, which was to include a reconnaissance trip that evening and also about the cannabis grow at 68 Causewayhead, Penzance, which was later valued by drugs experts to be worth £26,000 to £33,000.
The conversations led police to Snow, 29, of Alderwood Parc, Penryn, and Petrauske, who were heard having phone conversations with Kortje during the journey.
Ms Cassel described Petrauske, 26, of Prislow Place, Falmouth, as Kortje’s business partner in Cornwall, while Snow, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to produce cannabis and transferring criminal property earlier this year and is due to be sentenced in December, she said was employed by the pair as a “gardener”.
The investigating team followed the various members of the group, stopping Kortje on a number of occasions and seizing £6,000 worth of cannabis from Snow on April 7.
Kortje became nervous and called of the plot to retrieve the drug debt.
Henry Tydeman, 24, of Cardinnis Road, Penzance, who was subletting his property in Penzance for the cannabis grow, pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of cannabis.
He was sentenced to one year imprisonment suspended for two years with 240 hours unpaid work and £1,000 prosecution costs.
Petrauske pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce cannabis and conspiring to transfer criminal property and was jailed for three years.
Strain and Clarke admitted conspiring to commit false imprisonment and were jailed for two and a half years each.
After the hearing, senior investigating officer Detective Inspector David Dale said: “We use a large variety of covert methods and as has been heard in court, we place them in such a way that people will be overheard and their conversations will be overheard and we will bring that evidence to court.
“If they are involved in the drug trade or any other sort of criminality, the chances are we maybe following them.”