THREE members of a drug gang that met up in Ross-on-Wye have been jailed for a combined total of 30 years for trafficking cocaine worth around £1.6 million.

Richard Watkins, 43, from Ebbw Vale, was stopped by police driving a pick-up truck after meeting with Daniel O’Hara, 47, from the West Midlands.

Undercover officers witnessed the two meet in Ross-on-Wye and exchange packages and Watkins was later found with 3kg of cocaine in the footwell of the vehicle.

O’Hara was stopped shortly after on the M5 near Birmingham where £89,980 cash was found in a carrier bag in his car, Cardiff Crown Court heard.

Hereford Times: Richard WatkinsRichard Watkins (Image: South Wales Police)

They were both arrested and taken to Bridgend police station.

A South Wales Police Force Intelligence and Organised Crime Unit investigation revealed that John Paul Richards, 39, from Mountain Ash was using EncroChat, an encrypted network used by criminals, to buy cocaine from an upstream supplier.

Prosecutor Tom Roberts said Watkins and O’Hara were both couriers – conducting the exchange on behalf of Richards and the upward supplier.

It was concluded that between April and May 2020, 10.5kg of cocaine was exchanged between Richards, Watkins and O’Hara, which would have had an estimated street value of between £1.3 million and £1.6 million.Hereford Times: Daniel O’Hara Daniel O’Hara (Image: Daniel O’Hara)

The investigation, named Operation Tuscana, was a covert operation run by the FIOCU in 2020, which relates to a conspiracy to supply wholesale quantities of class A drugs to an organised crime gang.

Watkins was jailed for six years and four months for conspiracy to supply cocaine.

O’Hara was sentenced to 10 years and three months in prison for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Hereford Times: John Paul RichardsJohn Paul Richards (Image: John Paul Richards)

Richards was jailed for 13 years and six months for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Detective Inspector Russell Jenkins, the officer in case, said: “Illegal drugs cause misery for our communities and has no place in society.

“We will continue to work together with other police forces and partner agencies to bring those to justice whose criminal activities blight the lives of communities in south Wales.

“I hope that this sentence serves as a message that we are committed to disrupting and dismantling organised crime groups, and we will do all we can to remove drugs from the streets.”