County lines: Crack cocaine and heroin dealer jailed for trafficking boys to Hastings
A man who trafficked teenage boys to sell drugs in Hastings has been jailed for eight years and seven months.
Ajay Stephens, 21, was the holder of the ‘P’ line crime network - running drugs from London to the town. He got unsuspecting women to book and pay for accommodation in Hastings for two vulnerable boys, aged 15 and 17, to travel from their care home in Manchester to deal his crack cocaine and heroin. He was sentenced at Inner London Crown Court yesterday (November 11).
The Metropolitan Police believe it is only the second time a jury has convicted someone of modern slavery offences in relation to county lines under the Modern Slavery Act 2015. County lines is the name given to drug dealing where criminals use phone lines to move and supply drugs, usually from cities into smaller towns and rural areas across the country. The gangs exploit vulnerable people, including children and those with mental health or addiction issues, by recruiting them to distribute drugs.
Stephens, from Parry Road, Croydon, was found guilty following a trial in May of two counts of arranging and facilitating the movement of people. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in September 2020 to two counts of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.
The investigation began on March 9 2020 when detectives from the Met received intelligence from Sussex Police about the ‘P’ line. Enquiries, including mobile phone analysis, identified Stephens as the line-holder and also revealed that he was exploiting two children by getting them to travel from Manchester to London to collect the drugs before travelling to Hastings where they would stay to deal to Stephens’ customers.
Stephens was arrested on March 30 2020. After the boys were safeguarded, police continued to build evidence against Stephens. Detectives were able to prove that Stephens had been dealing Class A drugs in Hastings since April 2019, which he admitted. The court heard that approximately 1.45kg of drugs were sold through the ‘P’ line between November 2019 and March 2020, generating a significant amount of money for Stephens.
Detectives also found that when Stephens was out of the country, his step-brother Amun’Ra Teko, 19, of Loughborough Estate, Lambeth, and his half-brother Shaquille Boreland, 26, of no fixed address, ran the line in his absence.
Stephens, Teko and Boreland were subsequently charged and all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, with Teko and Boreland awaiting sentencing.
While this investigation continued, a new county line called the ‘JB’ line started in May 2020 and supplied drugs between London and Kent. On May 1 2020, prior to the line starting, officers stopped a BMW in the Old Kent Road, London, which was being driven by Boreland. Another half-brother of Stephens, Tai Diedrick, 23, of Dunheved Road West, Croydon, was a passenger in the vehicle. Both men were searched and Diedrick was found carrying a burner phone that would later be linked to the ‘JB’ line. A police dog searched the vehicle and found MDMA and cocaine hydrochloride hidden in an air vent. Both men were arrested and subsequently released under investigation.
Meanwhile, detectives who were investigating the ‘P’ line found Teko was also involved in the ‘JB’ line, which officers found was being run by Diedrick. The investigation resulted in six people linked to the line being convicted.
Diedrick, along with his associates Trey Foster, 27, of Myatts Field South, Lambeth, and Romario Genus, 19, of Paxton Grove, Croydon, pleaded guilty at separate hearings to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. Another associate, Jamie Danquah, 23, of Strathmore Road, Croydon, pleaded guilty in May 2021 to possession of criminal property and possession with intent to supply Class B drugs.
Boreland and Teko denied involvement but were found guilty by a jury in October, with Boreland being convicted of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs and Teko being convicted of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. All six await sentencing.
Detective Sergeant Ray Sekalongo, who was the investigating officer for the ‘P’ and ‘JB’ line cases, said: “Our investigation started with Stephens, but long hours carrying out numerous enquiries and some good detective work led to seven people being convicted and two county lines being closed. However, most importantly our investigation led to two young, vulnerable boys being freed from Stephens’ grasp and safeguarded. People like Stephens do not care about the children or vulnerable people they exploit for their own financial gain. They are used as human shields to protect people like Stephens.”