15th Sep, 2019

Drug dealer fined £130,000 after police catch him using phone at wheel

Sarah Mason 3rd Jul, 2018

A VAN driver has been ordered to pay more than £130,000 after he was caught using a phone at the wheel.

Stuart Hatfield was spotted on his mobile while driving in Hollyhock Road, Hall Green in December 2015.

Police officers reported a smell of cannabis wafting from the van and a search of the vehicle revealed a carrier bag stuffed with more than £9,000 in cash, while a cannabis factory was later discovered at his home in Gilscroft Road, Stechford.

Hatfield received a suspended jail sentence the following year for cultivating drugs and prompted West Midlands Police to launch a proceeds of crime investigation.

Financial investigators from the force’s Economic Crime Unit identified more than £200,000 of unexplained deposits into his bank accounts over a six-year period, plus property collectively valued at around £100,000.

The 36-year-old claimed to be a self-employed plumber but could provide no evidence of business transactions or that the cash payments were accrued lawfully.

A judge at Birmingham Crown Court deemed his total profit from drug dealing amounted to £363,232 and ordered him to repay £130,282 immediately or face 15 months in jail.

The remaining amount will hang over him for life and police can seize cash or property at a later date in order to pay off the debt.

Investigating officer, Det Cons Kezia Smith, said: “What started off as a motoring offence, with him facing six points on his licence and a £200 fine, quickly escalated when his mobile phone use led us to uncover his drug production and dealing.

“Our Economic Crime Unit reviewed Hatfields’s finances for the last six years and anything he was unable to account for was assumed to be from criminal conduct until he proved otherwise.

“The confiscation investigation took more than two years but Hatfield was never able to produce evidence to prove he had come about the money lawfully.”

Officers found a sophisticated cannabis production set-up at Hatfield’s home address with plant pots automatically fed and watered with a hydrophonics system.

Drug experts assessed it had an estimated yield of up to £17,000, while two bin liners were found to contain cannabis bud valued at more than £6,000. The electricity supply had also been bypassed.

Rebecca Walburn from West Midlands Police’s Economic Crime Unit added: “The end of the criminal case was only the start of our financial investigation. If we suspect anyone has profited through criminal activity we will always pursue them through the courts using the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).

“The money seized is put back into the public purse and can be spent on community initiatives and crime prevention schemes.”

Anyone with information on suspected drug cultivation or dealing is urged to contact West Midlands Police on 101 or the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

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