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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Notorious Carlisle criminal admits key role in huge drugs conspiracy

One of Carlisle’s most notorious criminals played a central role in a major drugs conspiracy involving a huge consignment of cocaine.

Aaron Giacopazzi photo
Aaron Giacopazzi

Aaron Giacopazzi, 47, shared the dock at the city’s crown court with eight accomplices in a case built on a complex police investigation that involved weeks of covert surveillance.

The gang members are today facing lengthy jail terms for their parts in plots linked to the illicit drugs trade.

The court heard that Giacopazzi was both a drugs “wholesaler” and a “facilitator” in a huge cocaine deal for criminals in the North East and Lancashire.

Describing the biggest drugs plot, prosecutor Tim Evans outlined how Giacopazzi became the link man between a North East-based drugs gang and another criminal gang in Lancashire.

On August 31 last year, he travelled to Lancashire to finalise the deal, with 56-year-old John Carney, of Raffles Avenue, Carlisle, as driver.

Fellow defendant Christopher Brookes, 53, from Blackburn, was the contact for the Lancashire gang who were to buy cocaine.

“But Aaron Giacopazzi appears to have had a supervisory role,” said Mr Evans.

Two Lancashire gang members, Ayab Khansai, 54, and Shabaz Choudrey, 33, arrived with £43,000 in cash, enough to buy half of the two kilos of cocaine involved in the plot.

They parked their Audi in the Morrisons supermarket car park in Blackburn, Mr Evans said. Giacopazzi and Carney arrived at the agreed meeting point in their Mercedes.

But Giacopazzi then switched to Choudrey’s car, and was soon joined by an Astra van driven by the gang’s north east contact Curtis Waite, 24.

Police swooped just as the drugs deal was about to be completed. They found the high purity cocaine – worth £86,000 wholesale – in the rear of the van and the cash that was to be used to pay for it, in a shoebox, in the back of the Audi.

Gicacopazzi was arrested while Carney, who fled, was caught later.

Mr Evans went on to outline an earlier drugs plot which police investigated.

Giacopazzi and two other men – including drugs “mule” Paul Carney, 52, from John Street, in Carlisle city centre – travelled in a flat-bed truck to Blackburn on May 25 last year to meet fellow drugs criminals Benjamin Morris, and Thomas Martin, both 37, at a McDonald’s restaurant.

Police saw Carney leaving the restaurant with something hidden in his jacket. He then took a taxi all the way back to Carlisle.

As the organiser of the deal, said Mr Evans, Giacopazzi was keen to distance himself from the actual drugs.

Having delivered the drugs to a property in Hillcrest Close, Harraby, Carney then went home by bus - though it was denied that the drugs were delivered to that address.

Mr Evans described how four days later police again secretly watched Giacopazzi as he met 51-year-old Paul Barcock, 51, in the car park of The Cumberland Infirmary, who later that day was caught with £19,000 worth of the drug mephedrone. It was hidden in the bumper of his car.

Before he was caught, Giacopazzi had driven him away from the hospital car park in his own silver BMW, though police lost sight of the vehicle on the outskirts of Carlisle, said Mr Evans.

“The proper inference is that Aaron Giacopazzi had gone to recover drugs from a rural stash in the Cumwhinton area,” he said.

The defendant’s BMW was later found abandoned after police pursued it on the A69 in a chase that reached speeds of up to 100mph. Police decided to call off the pursuit in the interests of public safety.

Earlier that same day Giacopazzi had visited a man in the north east in whose home police later found drugs and cash.

Mr Evans suggested there was something in the defendant’s BMW which he had not wanted police to find.

Giacopazzi, of Raffles Avenue, admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine; conspiracy to supply mephedrone; perverting the course of justice and dangerous driving.

Paul Carney admitted conspiracy to supply mephedrone. John Carney admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine. Waite, from Billingham in the north east, admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine. Brookes, of Blackburn, admitted conspiring to supply cocaine and mephedrone.

Khansai, from Blackburn, also admitted conspiring to supply cocaine, while Morris, 37, of Blackburn, admitted conspiring to supply mephedrone. Martin, 36, admitted the same offence. Coudrey admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine.

The hearing continues.

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