EIGHT members of a drugs gang who exploited vulnerable children have been jailed for a total of nearly 60 years. 

Preston Crown Court heard how the 'AK Line' crime group was headed by brothers Junaid Khan and Zain Khan, who directed street dealers, including children, to sell £2million of crack cocaine and heroin for them.

During the 15-month conspiracy, drugs were distributed from Zain Khan’s Burnley home to street dealers, who in turn would bring back cash – at times stuffing bundles through Khan’s letterbox.

Next in line in the structures were gang ‘lieutenants’ Mohammed Jabbar and Shohib Safdar, who were responsible for directing dealers where to sell drugs and ensuring they always had a ready supply. 

Co-defendants Morgan Ellis, Gemma Jackson, Alan Pickard, Josh Jackson, Tracey Brown and Darren Catlow were either managers or street dealers within the gang.

Lancashire Telegraph:

The gang exploited 12 teenagers, three aged just 14, into selling drugs as part of the plot from May 2018 to August 2019. 

The children – sometimes still in school uniform - would arrive at an address used by the gang to collect drugs and then be deployed to locations elsewhere in Burnley to sell deals.

Throughout the investigation, officers arrested countless people connected to the ring. When phones were seized, the conspirators would either quickly buy a new handset and register it under the same number or register a new number for the AK Line and then send out a message to customers advertising that they were ‘back in business’.

Large quantities of heroin, crack cocaine and cash, as well as drug paraphernalia, drug dealer lists and mobile phones were seized from addresses and vehicles connected to the group.

When police arrested an associate of the Khan brothers, both defendants turned up at the scene and began taunting officers. 

Lancashire Telegraph:

Junaid Khan said: “I run these blocks and have done since I was about 15,” while Zain Khan said: “Yeah, you know you can’t touch us. Search us, do what you want I don’t carry nothing.” 

Zain Khan then said he earned more than the arresting officer in his sleep.

However, Zain Khan was arrested a few months later, on August 22, 2019, when officers conducted a series of raids at addresses across Burnley. He was found in possession of what was established to be the ‘AK line’ dealer phone and in excess of £10,000 cash in several packages.

Junaid Khan was arrested on the same day along with Gemma Jackson, at her home address, and a number of mobile phones were seized.

Junaid Khan, 20, of Green Street, Burnley; Zain Khan, 21, of Fraser Street, Burnley; Gemma Jackson, 25, of Ightenhill Park Lane, Burnley; Ellis, 21, of Beech Street, Padiham; and Safdar, 20, of Elm Street, Burnley, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine. Jabbar, 22, last of Granville Street, Burnley; Pickard, 49, of Marles Court, Burnley; Catlow, 36, of Nelson Square, Burnley, was found guilty of the same offences. 

Lancashire Telegraph:

Joshua Jackson, 20, of Briercliffe Road, Burnley; and Brown, 49, of no fixed address, both pleaded guilty to supplying heroin and crack cocaine.

The Khans were both jailed for 11 and a half years; Jabbar was jailed for nine and a half years; Safdar was jailed for seven and a half years; Jackson and Ellis were each jailed for five and a half years; Catlow was jailed for four years and Pickard was jailed for three years. Jackson was given a 24 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, while Brown failed to attend court. A warrant has now been issued for her arrest.

All 10 defendants will face a proceeds of crime hearing in March 2021.

Judge Simon Medland QC said he accepted expert evidence that at least 20kg of Class A drugs were peddled onto the streets of Burnley with an estimated value of £2million."

Judge Medland added: “The impact of this offending has been both deep and very grave.”

The child victims are now being safeguarded.

Sgt Andrew Osbaldeston said: “The Khan brothers thought they were untouchable and above the law but through dedicated police work and excellent surveillance, we have managed to bring them to justice and take the AK Line permanently offline."

Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, added: “This is a great example of the excellent work being done by Lancashire officers to keep drugs off our streets and keep vulnerable people safe.

“This operation has led to 10 dangerous criminals who were blighting our streets and exploiting young people facing the justice they deserve. I hope this sends a clear message to those who are getting involved organised crime that the police have the resources, skills and determination to crack organisations like this and bring their members to justice.”