A drugs “kingpin” behind a lucrative empire importing cocaine destined for the streets of Blackpool is today facing a lengthy jail term.
Police said Lee Broadbent, who lived a luxury lifestyle in Poulton – and who fled to Spain’s Costa Del Sol when police closed in – thought he was “untouchable”.
But, following a major investigation in which officers gathered proof he had imported four or five kilos of the class A drug in the space of just nine days, detectives finally caught up with him as he visited a Spanish water park and extradited him back to the UK.
Today the 33-year-old is awaiting sentence after a jury found him guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine following a trial lasting several weeks.
Police told The Gazette the verdict was “a great outcome for Blackpool.”
Det Chief Insp Graham Gallagher, of Lancashire Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), said: “Lee Broadbent is a very confident individual who thought he was untouchable.
“He lived in a grand five bedroom house on Mains Lane in Poulton without any legitimate income and owned numerous flash vehicles.
“He was most definitely the kingpin.
“He was the head of this organisation and he had many foot soldiers, which he used to distribute the drugs.
“Prior to being arrested Broadbent had been linked to other criminal acts but with his knowledge of police tactics, constantly changing his mobile phone and him distancing himself from the act he often evaded capture.
“I secured a European Arrest warrant and working with the Spanish police he was arrested while visiting a water park.”
During the course of the trial at Preston Crown Court, Broadbent claimed to the jury he had made his money through gambling and used inside information on betting to make up to £100,000, if not more.
But the prosecution always insisted that his “earnings” were linked to cocaine.
He had denied a charge of conspiracy to supply the class A drug, but was found guilty on a majority verdict.
His girlfriend Jacqueline Thomas, 31, denied a charge of converting criminal property. She was also found guilty on a majority verdict.
The pair will now face sentencing next week along with a number of other people.
Some pleaded guilty to involvement with the conspiracy while others were found guilty after trial.
Det Ch Insp Gallagher added: “This is a fantastic result.
“Broadbent was a well connected and high profile criminal organising substantial importations of 80 per cent pure cocaine in kilo blocks.
“In just a nine day investigation between October 4 and October 13 we obtained proof he had imported four or five kilos.
“Every one of those kilos can then be what we call bashed – mixed with other ingredients – to create up to five kilos to sell on the streets.
“This conviction is a great outcome for Blackpool and for places further a field such as Manchester where he was supplying the drugs. ”
The court heard Broadbent and his girlfriend had use of a luxury detached house on Mains Lane.
In October 2011 he had flown to Malaga, Spain, and alleged at his trial he left the country after being accused of being a “grass” and threatened he would be shot.
Broadbent had enjoyed the use of luxury cars such as a BMW while in Lancashire.
He would change his mobile phones once a month, claiming once the credit had run out that it was cheaper to get a fresh one in the long run.
The defendant said a man he knew had offered him the accommodation rent free in return for information about the whereabouts of someone who had “ripped him off” to the tune of £900,000 and who he was trying to recover money from.
Broadbent, once a schoolboy footballer for Preston North End, said he was asked for help.
He told the court he had been a successful gambler, doing it seriously for around fifteen years.
Thomas had no previous convictions and her bail has been extended to the sentencing hearing, due to take place on Thursday and Friday of next week.
Broadbent was further remanded in custody.