Gang members ordered to pay back £200,000

Two gang members have been ordered to pay back more than £200,000 after West Midlands Police linked their lavish lifestyles to drugs factories found in Wolverhampton.

Stephen Straker and Reece Bentley both from Bushbury have already had officers seize goods including a sports car, jewellery and designer trainers, worth £35,000 from their homes, once before.

Now a court has ordered that the pair must also pay back a further £171,581.

When officers first arrested Straker and Bentley after finding two cannabis factories on Bushbury Lane in Wolverhampton, they quickly realised the pair were living way beyond their means – finding wads of cash, high-end watches and designer gear at their homes.

Straker had also been enjoying foreign holidays, having returned from the Euro 2016 football tournament in France days before his arrest.

Their arrests came after officers raided two addresses in Bushbury Lane in May 2016 and discovered 59 cannabis plants, scales and drugs paraphernalia as well as signs of cocaine and heroin production.

Forensics and witness evidence linked Straker, aged 29 and Bentley, aged 28, to operating the drugs factories.

Seized – an Audi RS5 sports car

Straker was sentenced on 24 September 2018 at Wolverhampton Crown Court to a total of four years and three months for producing cannabis and supplying heroin and cocaine.

He was also convicted on two counts of dangerous driving, failing to stop after a collision, aggravated vehicle taking and resisting arrest after he was caught by officers dealing heroin and crack cocaine in Low Hill in March 2017 and taking a vehicle without consent in May 2015 in Cannock, Staffordshire.

Bentley admitted producing cannabis and was sentenced to 24 months, suspended for 24 months.

It was found that the pair had amassed a considerable fortune from their criminal activities and after officers compiled a compelling case, Straker and Bentley became subject to the seizure of assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Seized – a Cartier watch and a Rolex

Police seized an Audi RS5 sports car, dozens of pairs of designer trainers, watches including a Rolex and a Cartier, bundles of cash and evidence of Straker enjoying foreign holidays. Wolverhampton Crown Court ruled that Straker had amassed a criminal benefit of more than £135,000 and Bentley, £71,092.

Taking into account the goods already seized worth £29,999 from Straker and £5,000 from Bentley, the court last week (27 November) ordered Straker pay back a further £105,489 and Bentley, £66,092 under a confiscation order.

Inspector Stephanie Furber from Wolverhampton Police, said: “Both men are known members of a crime group operating in the Bushbury and Low Hill areas.

“They had made substantial profits from this criminality which causes misery to the local community.

“We are pleased that following a successful investigation, we can once again highlight to members of the public and those involved in criminality that crime doesn’t pay.”

Straker and Bentley must both repay the money within three months or face imprisonment for three months and the outstanding amounts on both orders will remain recoverable, should further assets become available in the future.