Convicted drug dealers ordered to repay more than £200,000. Date published: 23rd October 2019 11.49am

Two members of an organised crime gang from Merseyside have been ordered to repay more than £200,000 that they earned from their criminal activities.

The investigation into Terence Bell and John Grace began on 26 September 2017 when Bell was stopped by Crime Car officers from Cheshire Police while driving a Ford Focus on Cronton Road, Widnes.

During a search of his vehicle officers discovered four blocks of cocaine, each weighing approximately 1kg, which had an estimated value of £144,000.

Bell, (37), of Bulford Road, Liverpool was subsequently charged with possession with intent to supply class A drugs.

He was later sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to the offence – claiming that he was merely a drugs courier paying off a drug debt.

However, unconvinced by his claims, a confiscation investigation was launched by Accredited Financial Investigator Stuart Oliver from the Cheshire Police Financial Investigation Unit.

During his enquiries Stuart discovered that Bell was far from in debt, he actually owned five separate properties and had approximately £100,000 in his bank account.

During the two years that followed it was established that Bell had led a criminal lifestyle, and had accrued more than £205,000 which he couldn’t account for.

Officers also found that the drugs seized from Bell on Cronton Road were part of a larger proactive investigation into conspiracy to supply class A drugs which had been run by North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU) and involved John Grace.

As a result, it was agreed that 59-year-old Grace, of Waresley Crescent, Liverpool, had jointly benefitted from the drugs recovered by Cheshire Police and a confiscation investigation was also launched against him by an officer from Regional Asset Recovery Team at NWROCU.

Following the investigations the case returned to Liverpool Crown Court on Thursday 17 November where the judge granted a confiscation order totalling £205,162.32.

Both defendants were both ordered to pay £74,278.04 each which represented a 50 per cent share of the value of the drugs recovered by Cheshire Police. Bell was also ordered to pay an additional £56,610.26 to cover his personal benefit from his criminal lifestyle.

If they do not repay the money within three months they face further time behind bars.

Following the proceeds of crime hearing, David Keane, police and crime commissioner for Cheshire, added: "Confiscation orders such as this send out strong message to our communities that crime doesn’t pay and act as a warning that Cheshire Police will not rest until we have taken back every single penny of their ill gotten gains.  

"The money seized in this case will be used to support vital community projects which aim to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour and to prevent young people getting involved in crime in the first place, which inevitably makes our communities safer places to live."

Detective Sergeant Helen Rowland, of the Economic Crime Unit added: "From the start of this investigation it was clear that Bell thought he could get away lightly with his criminal activities by playing the victim.

“He attempted to avoid blame by claiming that he was simply a courier and was moving the drugs in order to pay off a debt.

“However, as our investigation has proven, that was not the case. In fact Bell, and his associate Grace, were leading members of an organised crime gang from Merseyside who had earned thousands of pounds through their criminal activities.

“Thankfully, as a result of the hard work of thorough investigation led by AFI Oliver and officers at the NWROCU, both Bell and Grace have now been ordered to repay their ill-gotten gains.

"I also hope that this acts as a warning to other potential offenders and shows them that crime doesn't pay and any penalties invoked by the Proceeds of Crime Act will stay with them for the rest of their lives."