The head of a cocaine empire who fled to Spain and was arrested by police at a waterpark has been jailed for 16 years.
Lee Broadbent, 33, who lived in a large home in Mains Lane, Poulton, and drove luxury cars was described by police as the “kingpin” in the criminal gang which was involved in the supply of cocaine.
Yesterday he and other members of the gang were jailed for a total of more than 80 years at Preston Crown Court.
Lancashire Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit’s launched Operation Oriole in September 2011 in a bid to dismantle the gang.
As head of the group, Broadbent’s role was to organise and delegate tasks to others, based in Lancashire and Manchester, regarding the supply and distribution of several kilos of cocaine.
This was mainly done through mobile phones, which allowed Broadbent to distance himself from the operation.
His partner Jacqueline Thomas also assisted Broadbent by supplying him with an unregistered mobile which he used to conduct his illegal trade and arranged his travel to go on the run.
On October 4, 2011, Broadbent and one of his associates were seen supplying cocaine to another criminal on a car park at Tesco on Clifton Road , Blackpool.
A search the vehicle revealed a package hidden under the front passenger seat containing 1,003 grams of cocaine of 87 per cent purity, with a street value of £130,000.
That evening, Broadbent left his home and the day after he fled the country to Malaga, Spain via Glasgow and then Belfast. Despite being abroad, he still continued to distribute cocaine around the North West, giving orders to other drugs suppliers via pay-as-you-go mobiles which he believed were unlikely to be traced.
But following a major investigation in which officers gathered proof he had imported four or five kilos cocaine 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.
Broadbent denied conspiracy to supply the class A drug, but was found guilty after a seven week trial.
Jailing him yesterday, Judge Simon Newell said: “This was a conspiracy that was extensive, organised and professional”.
Jacqueline Thomas, 31, also of Mains Lane, Poulton, was given a two year suspended sentence after having previously been found guilty of money laundering in a previous trial at Preston Crown Court.
Ten other members of the gang were also jailed.