Thu, 11 Oct 2018
THE death of a Newbury man which prompted the UK’s largest ‘legal high’ drugs investigation has led to the head of a criminal organisation being ordered to repay £1.7m.
Grant Christopher Wooldridge, 46, died after taking a lethal ‘designer’ drugs cocktail ordered over the internet at a West Country festival.
The inquest into Mr Wooldridge’s death heard that he had suffered seizures caused by a potentially fatal overdose of the illegal stimulant fluoromethamphetamine boosted by other exotic, ‘designer’ stimulants and hallucinogens.
Evidence suggested that the cocktail, including the banned drug mephedrone, plus so-called legal highs, was obtained from a website known as Wide Mouth Frogs, which had ceased trading following a police investigation.
Indeed, Mr Wooldridge’s death prompted the largest ‘legal high’ investigation in the UK, with around £4m-worth of drugs being sold online.
The operation brought down a £12m drug empire run by Paula White, from Eccles, Greater Manchester.
White was sentenced, along with six other people, to nine years in prison at Bolton Crown Court in 2015.
This week, at Carlisle Crown Court, 49-year-old White was ordered to repay £1,773,605.52 by January 8, 2019, or face a further eight years in prison.
Officers traced deliveries to a mill in Farnworth, Bolton – known as ‘Area 51’ by employees – and found ‘kilos and kilos’ of drugs.
Tablets and powders were found to contain banned substances including the Class B stimulant Mephedrone, also known as ‘M-Cat’ or ‘Meow Meow’.
White was arrested in 2013 and the lavish proceeds of her drug dealing were uncovered at her home.
She owned a brand new Aston Martin and a house worth £800,000 with a large extension, orangery and a swimming pool under construction, as well as a £10,000 dog kennel.
Designer clothing, vehicles, jewellery, wall mounted high value televisions as well as garden furniture worth over £25,000 were all among items seized and removed from the property.
Further financial investigation revealed that White also owned an opulent villa in Marbella, Spain.
Money was also traced and restrained in Tanzania, with co-operation from the authorities there, which is the first time that they have restrained money on behalf of a foreign jurisdiction.
Detective Chief Insp Ian Hussey, from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, said: “Today’s result sends a very important message to anyone involved in serious and organised crime.
“Not only will we pursue you through the courts, we will go after your criminal assets and ensure that as much of the proceeds are returned to crime-fighters across the region.
“Like any drug operation, the impact of White and her group’s activities was extremely serious and sadly linked to the death of one man and illnesses to others.
“In effect, they experimented with mixtures with no testing and little concept of the harm they would cause.”