An inmate ran a £700,000 drugs operation with the help of his mother on the outside, a court has heard.
Ryan Ratcliffe, 28, and another prisoner Ben Harding, 27, both from Salford, Greater Manchester, used the telephone system at HMP Magilligan in Northern Ireland to co-ordinate the cultivation and supply of cannabis, said Greater Manchester Police.
Among Ratcliffe’s accomplices was his mother, Marie, 46, who paid fellow members of the drugs gang on behalf of her son and helped pay rent at one of three addresses where cannabis farms were located.
Their activities were uncovered when police were called to reports of a disturbance at a house in Crab Lane, Blackley, Manchester, on July 27 2017.
Ryan Ratcliffe, 28, and Ben Harding, 27, both from Salford, used the telephone system at HMP Magilligan in Northern Ireland to co-ordinate the cultivation and supply of cannabis
One of Ratcliffe’s accomplices was his mother, Marie, 46, who paid fellow members of the drugs gang on behalf of her son
The property was searched and it was found to contain 61 cannabis plants, as well as equipment used in the cultivation of the drug.
It emerged that Ratcliffe had instructed a close associate, Joshua Williams, 28, to run the farm at Crab Lane.
Further raids took place in November 2017 at addresses in Salford and Heywood where two further cannabis farms were discovered and led to the arrests of Ratcliffe’s uncle Stephen Ratcliffe, 49, and Ben Pickles, 27.
Another defendant, Amanda McCurdy, 45, acted as a financial support for the operation and was involved in the supply of the drug.
When the property at Crab Lane was searched and it was found to contain 61 cannabis plant
Ratcliffe instructed close associate, Joshua Williams, 28, from Salford, to run the farm at Crab Lane
Stephen Ratcliffe (left), 49, and Ben Pickles (right), 27, were also arrested after raids in November 2017 at addresses in Salford and Heywood
The conspiracy is estimated to have produced 100kg of cannabis with a street value of £700,000, Manchester Crown Court was told.
Ryan Ratcliffe, from Salford, was jailed for seven years and four months while Harding, also from Salford, was imprisoned for seven years and two months.
Stephen Ratcliffe, from Salford, was jailed for four years and eight months.
Marie Ratclife, from Salford, was sentenced to four years and two months.
Pickles, from Heywood, was jailed for five years and two months and McCurdy, from Salford, was sentenced to four years and four months.
Williams, from Salford, was jailed for six years after he admitted to conspiracy to supply cannabis, conspiracy to produce cannabis, possession of cannabis with intent to supply and possession of amphetamine with intent to supply.
The seventh defendant to be arrested was Amanda McCurdy, 45, who acted as a financial support for the operation
Following sentencing, Detective Inspector Andy Buckthorpe said: ‘Despite serving significant custodial sentences for similar matters, Ryan Ratcliffe and Ben Harding continued to operate their drug dealing enterprise from behind bars in Northern Ireland.
‘They recruited other people to manage the day to day business of cropping, selling and replenishing cannabis farms across Manchester and utilised a number of close family members to assist with managing the operation and dealing with the money back in Manchester.
‘This was very much a family enterprise and the individuals involved were making vast profits through this criminality.
‘We have processes in place to monitor and target serving prisoners who may seek to continue their criminality despite being incarcerated and we will continue to work with partner agencies such as the prison service and other law enforcement agencies to disrupt and dismantle organised criminal networks of this nature.’