Jonathan Moorby, formerly of Ingleby Barwick, is accused of running an operation from the south-east Asian country
A Teessider living in Thailand has been named as the Mr Big behind a drugs conspiracy that flooded the area with high-grade cocaine.
Mobile phones seized from members of the gang led Cleveland Police’s Organised Crime Unit to identify Stockton man Jonathan Moorby, 45, as the man giving the orders.
The breakthrough came after a swoop on a Vauxhall Corsa travelling north on the A19 with two kilos of 70% pure cocaine hidden in the boot.
The driver gave no-comment replies to all questions in interviews about his actions on October 3.
But analyses of the calls and texts on his mobile phone pointed to another suspect in regular contact with Moorby, now living in Thailand.
Two men, Jason Magill, 36, and Neil McIver, 29, have pleaded guilty at Teesside Crown Court to conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of Class A between 1 September and October 17 last year “together with Jonathan Michael Moorby and a person unknown to supply cocaine to another”.
Sentences are also awaited on two men for conspiracy to commit arson at the home of Moorby’s former wife in Stockton.
Prosecutor Harry Hadfield told Teesside Crown Court that police checks on the phones showed that a courier from Teesside had taken large amounts of cash to Manchester and Kirkby Stephen, in Cumbria, to pay for kilos of cocaine.
He said that a drugs courier from Merseyside had also delivered cocaine to Billingham on September 30.
The phone records also showed that there had been regular calls linking Moorby in Thailand to a Stockton man who controlled the Billingham courier.
Mr Hadfield told Judge Simon Phillips that the courier had also dropped off money in Oldham in Greater Manchester last September.
But he said that there was no evidence showing contact between the courier and Moorby.
Detective Sergeant John Fitzpatrick, of the Organised Crime Unit of Cleveland Police , said: “I believe that Moorby is at the top of this.
“The purity of the cocaine indicates that it was extremely close to the importation of the cocaine.”
Sgt Fitzpatrick, an expert drugs investigator, added: “It would suggest that the persons obtaining at this level are at an elevated position.
“You don’t enter at this level, you have to build up finances and trust.”
'Not entirely candid or truthful'
Jonathan Moorby, formerly of Ingleby Barwick , has twice been convicted for drug dealing.
He received a six-year sentence in May 2004 for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and possession with intent to supply Class B drugs.
The then hotel manager was jailed for a further three years in 2011 after he was caught with a holdall containing more than £100,000 of illegal drugs.
Teesside Crown Court confirmed a warrant for his arrest was issued in December 2014. However he has never been caught.
The prosecution said the top of the hierarchy operated in Thailand, with Magill, of Swinburn Road, Norton, the “UK manager” and McIver his “lieutenant”.
McIver was entrusted to transport money and 2kg of 70%-pure cocaine between Manchester and Stockton, the court heard.
McIver, of Teesdale Avenue, Billingham, said he was a cocaine addict, had a £500 drug debt and he and his family were threatened with violence if he did not do as he was told.
'Fear' claim rejected
He said he was ordered to take a package of money to Manchester and pick up a package containing cocaine, without knowing the volumes of either.
Judge Simon Phillips QC decided neither Magill nor McIver were “entirely candid or truthful” and they distanced themselves from orchestrating the drugs exchange.
He said it was more likely than not that McIver was supplied with cocaine by Magill, but he did not find it “credible” that McIver was being coerced.
Extensive communications between the two men suggested McIver was acting voluntarily, actively doing Magill’s bidding as a “free agent”, said the judge.
He found McIver’s account was “untruthful and unreliable”, saying: “I reject the claim he was acting out of fear.
“He was aware his superior was in Thailand. He knew there was an international element to this activity.”
The sentencing of Magill, McIver and other associates will be held at a later date.