A FURTHER nine people have been charged as part of a major operation aimed at tackling illegal drug supply.

The latest arrests, as part of Operation Florence, took place at numerous addresses in the North West and South West of England over the last four weeks, including several in Darwen.

As part of the operation, which mainly revolves around drug supply in East Lancashire, £40,000 in cash was found by investigating officers at a property in Bolton

Earlier this year the Bolton News' sister title The Lancashire Telegraph reported how 18 people had been arrested and charged as part of the same operation - which saw a firearm seized from a luxurious property in Marbella, Spain.

This Is Lancashire:

As well as arresting some suspects on their return from Spain, officers have recovered a significant amount of cash and cannabis, as well as a disguised firearm.

On July 2, a warrant was executed at an address in Darwen and a 21-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of a drug supply offence.

Ten days later a German national was detained entering the UK but has since been released under investigation.

On July 20, officers arrested a man in Ellesmere Port in connection with the importation of cocaine and cannabis from Spain into East Lancashire

Two days later search warrants were executed at addresses in Darwen and three men were arrested in connection with the investigation. Cannabis and cutting agent were also recovered.

On the same day a man was arrested in a hotel room in Plymouth after recently returning from Spain on suspicion of a drug supply offence.

This Is Lancashire:

On August 4, searches were executed at addresses in Swinton and Westhoughton in the Bolton area and cannabis and £40,000 in cash were recovered.

Two days later a man was arrested in Blackburn.

Sgt Stu Peall, from the East Exploitation Team, said: “I am pleased we have managed to secure further charges as part of this extensive and complex investigation. We are committed to tackling and disrupting drug-dealing activity and protecting vulnerable members of society. This operation was launched directly on the back of concerns raised by members of the public and I would encourage anyone concerned about criminal activity in their area to contact the police, knowing that we will act on that information and take the appropriate action.”

This Is Lancashire:

  •  Jessica Humphreys, 21, of Dominica Avenue, Darwen, and Liam Martyn, 27, of Barnes Avenue, Dronfield, have been charged with conspiring to supply cannabis.
  • Mark Hopwood, 28, of Shephard Close, Ellesmere Port; Shaheed Virmani, 27, of Warren Drive, Manchester; and George Lodge, 18, of Perry Street, Darwen, have been charged with conspiring to supply cocaine and cannabis. Lodge has also been charged with possession with intent to supply Class A drugs.
  • Scott McKenna, 27, of Hazel Avenue, Darwen; Kieren McKenna, 35, of Griffin Close, Burnley; and Sean McKenna, 38, of Cobden Street, Darwen, have been charged with conspiring to supply cocaine.
  • William Greenall, 23, of Siverdale Close, Blackburn, have been charged with possession with intent to supply cannabis, supplying cannabis, possession of a disguised firearm and arranging or facilitating the travel of another person with a view to exploitation.

McKenna was due to appear before at Blackburn magistrates today, while the other eight defendants are due to appear at Preston Crown Court next month.

Earlier this year, Usman Akhter, 36, Tariq Ajaib, 49, and Craig Hollins, 47, all of Sarah Street, Darwen, were all charged with conspiracy to supply cocaine and conspiracy to supply cannabis.

  • Ardit Prahmnai, 21, of Astbury Close, Darwen; Liam Parker, 27, of Atlas Street, Darwen; Rory Compton, 29, of Ash Grove, Darwen; James Burrows, 21, of Plantation Road, Blackburn; Joseph Ginley, 35, of Milking Lane, Darwen; and Mark Jeal, 36, of Pilmuir Road, Blackburn, were charged with conspiracy to supply cocaine and conspiracy to supply cannabis.
  • Samuel Howard, 24, and Clare Lester, 24 - both of Duckworth Street, Darwen; Nico Moorby, 26, of Petre Wood Crescent, Langho; and Jack Beeke, 27, of Church Terrace, Darwen, were charged with conspiracy to supply cannabis.
  • Gail Pilling, 42, of Derwent Road, Darwen, was charged with being concerned in the supply of cannabis; Michael Ryan Young, 29, of Alexandra Mews, Blackburn, was charged with conspiracy to supply cannabis; Ellis Gorman, 26, of Holden Fold, Darwen, was charged with conspiracy to supply cocaine; Augustine McDonagh, 32, of Bobbin Close, Accrington, was charged with conspiracy to commit damage and being concerned in the supply of cannabis; and Ben Stones, 21, of Cavendish Road, Darwen, was charged with handling stolen goods.

They have all since appeared at Preston Crown Court.

Anyone with concerns about drug-dealing or any other criminal activity in their area can call police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. Alternatively, Crimestoppers can be contacted, in confidence, on 0800 555111.