Dealer linked to crime boss ‘The Lam’ caught after cocaine bust

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A drug dealer linked to criminal playboy Liam 'The Lam' Cornett was caught after a dramatic £100,000 cocaine bust.

Cornett, 29, lived a lavish lifestyle in Spain, partied in Marbella and Monte Carlo, and enjoyed helicopter and Bentley rides.

He controlled a sprawling drug network that ran from his Costa del Sol base to estates in Anfield, Hull, Cardiff and Devon.

But the Huyton-born mastermind of cocaine, heroin and amphetamine plots is now serving a 26-year prison sentence.

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Today another crook linked to the misery and degradation Cornett helped spread across the UK was finally brought to justice.

Liam Cornett, 29, of Roby Road, Huyton

Liverpool Crown Court heard Jack Ball, 27, was rumbled when police used a stinger to stop a car carrying nearly 1kg of cocaine set to be delivered to him.

One of Cornett's gang, Ryan Perry, activated a "graft phone" for dealing in Exeter by topping it up in Kensington at 5.54pm on September 15, 2018.

Within two minutes, the 23-year-old, who was in the area of his Schomberg Street home, received a missed call from a Spanish mobile number.

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Henry Riding, prosecuting, said this was saved in his contacts as "Lizam" – a number attributed to Cornett, nicknamed "The Lam".

"Lizam" rang back at 6.10pm and by 6.22pm Perry was travelling to Exeter – the first of many trips back and forth over the next two weeks.

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He dropped off the graft phone on September 20 and remained in contact with "Lizam" as he carried out business in Torquay and Plymouth.

When in Plymouth from September 28 to 29, Perry's mobile repeatedly used a mast servicing Ball's then home, in Melbourne Street, Plymouth, and there was regular phone contact between the pair.

Perry then travelled down to Exeter in a Ford Fiesta late on the evening of October 8, but little did he know he was now under police observation.

Officers tracked him as he headed to the Plymouth home of another man – linked by phone evidence to Ball – who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Mr Riding said: "At just after midnight on October 9, 2018, the vehicle was stopped by the police using a stinger device near to Ivybridge, as it approached the outskirts of Plymouth and 993.80 grams of cocaine, at a purity of 44%, worth between £39,752 to £99,380, was recovered from within."

Ryan Perry, 23, of Schomberg Street, Kensington

Later that same day Ball fled Plymouth – seemingly on an overnight bus to Heathrow Airport – from where he took a 10am flight to Los Angeles.

Cornett was arrested when he landed at Manchester Airport from Spain two days later and Ball was arrested when he returned to Heathrow on November 6.

Perry – who had previously travelled with Cornett to Devon and been involved in creating the Exeter wing of the gang's operation – was jailed for nine years.

Ball stood trial last May, charged with a wider cocaine plot – of which Cornett was convicted – along with conspiring to import and supply cannabis.

Jurors could not reach a verdict in respect of the allegations against Ball and he was due to face a retrial this month.

However, after he pleaded guilty to a separate conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, prosecutors dropped the three outstanding charges.

Ball admitted conspiring to supply cocaine between August 1, 2018 and November 8, 2018, relating solely to the near 1kg package seized on October 9.

He did not have any previous convictions for drugs, however, Mr Riding said his evidence during the first trial was that he was "a well established dealer", trading in cannabis in the Plymouth area, which he said was how he came to work with Cornett.

Frank Dillon, defending, said Ball may have made "admissions of misconduct in relation to cannabis", but he was only being sentenced for this cocaine plot.

Jack Ball was connected to drug boss Liam 'The Lam' Cornett

Judge Anil Murray told his client: "I know you admitted in your evidence at trial you are an experienced dealer of cannabis – I don't sentence you for that."

The judge said Ball accepted the consignment of cocaine from Liverpool was to be delivered to him and that he had been in contact with Cornett previously.

He said: "Mr Dillon submits you stepped into the breach after the arrest of others and you were in a position to do that with your association with Mr Cornett through dealing cannabis."

Judge Murray said Ball had a leading role, but "only in terms of the Plymouth end of the operation and not the more serious Liverpool end of the operation", which would have resulted in a longer sentence.

Jailing him for seven years and four months, he added: "You were clearly organising the buying of drugs on a commercial scale so they could be sold in the Plymouth area. You had influence over others in the chain and the expectation of significant financial gain."

Cornett was described as one of the biggest thorns in the side of Merseyside by detectives tasked with bringing down his extensive network.

When he was finally brought before the courts he required a high-profile armed escort between Liverpool Crown Court and Strangeways such were the fears he could be sprung from custody.

Cornett was jailed for 26 years for conspiracy to supply Class A and Class B drugs just before Christmas.

His sentencing came just over two and a half years after the bizarre incident that allowed detectives to bring him to justice.

In November 2017, police were called to a home on Beresford Road in Dingle following reports of an explosion.

It emerged a home made grenade had been accidentally detonated, causing extensive damage to the property.

The officers that entered the terraced home in the aftermath discovered 158kg of amphetamines, 1kg of cocaine and 9kg of mixing agent.

Those drugs, given a street value of between £750,000 and £1.5m were being minded by Tina Knight.

Knight, 44, of Jacob Street in Toxteth, was later jailed for three years after admitting possession with intent to supply cocaine and amphetamines.

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Spanish Police raided properties across the country in searches that had their roots in the Dingle drugs discovery.

And Merseyside Police teamed up with the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit and Devon and Cornwall Police to unravel the web of dealers and couriers on the frontline of Cornett's network.

The result was 28 criminals being sentenced to a combined total of more than 200 years.

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