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Ex-squaddie fell into £750k cocaine business when his firm went bust in Covid

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A former British Army soldier fell into a huge cocaine business after his waste disposal firm failed during Covid.

Joseph Johnson, 34, has been jailed for seven years after being caught with £750,000 worth of gear.

Police arrested him on Moorland Road, Stoke-on-Trent, before raiding his home address and finding the stash.

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Three packages containing 2kg of cocaine were recovered, with an estimated street value of £200,000 each, reports Stoke-on-TrentLive.

They also recovered 1kg of cocaine, worth £100,000 if sold on the street, and two more packages containing 250g – worth £25,000 each on the street.

Prosecutor Benjamin Stanley said an officer spotted Johnson on Moorland Road on October 18.

Mr Stanley told Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court: "He was walking with a rucksack on his back. He was wanted in relation to the supply of class A drugs. He was arrested at 11.30am.

"The rucksack, phone and £120 cash were seized. He had keys to his home address in Dartmouth Street. Multiple amounts of drugs were seized.

"In total the cocaine was worth between £226,000 and £339,000 wholesale and up to £750,000 if sold in street deals."

The court heard that Johnson had been linked to an address on Moorland Road. He had attended the property 135 times in 83 days.

Johnson pleaded guilty to possession of a class A drug with intent to supply.

Steve Hennessy, mitigating, said Johnson had been a member of the Royal Horse Artillery from 2005 to 2009. He became a bricklayer upon leaving the Army and then launched his own waste disposal business in 2019. But the Covid lockdown led to the business failing.

Mr Hennessy added: "He had no car, no bank account, no passport, no driving licence. He was at an extremely low ebb. This pressure was added to by the commencement of a relationship and the birth of a child.

"While at such a low ebb he was approached by a friend who offered him an opportunity to make some financial gain. That led to the commission of this offence.

"He has made extremely poor decisions. He understands and accepts he must pay the consequences. This is not against a background of greed. He did not have a lavish lifestyle, no expensive holidays, no jewellery.

"His partner had no idea what was going on. He was able to keep this activity away from his family."

Judge Graeme Smith said it was a 'tragic case'.

He said: "You had a good and promising future ahead of you. When disaster struck through Covid and other matters you turned to unlawful means to support your partner and young child.

"The quantities of drugs were very significant. You had been performing this function as a drug courier for 83 days. I accept you were not personally supplying, or dealing, to people on the street.

"Drugs ruin lives and there are many people who appear in the court every day whose lives have been ruined by drugs, particularly class A drugs."

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