Liverpool news The murky world of Leon Cullen's £300,000 a month crime trade PremierLeague-News.Com
PremierLeague-News.Com - The Dubai fugitive, who fled Warrington as police closed in, had key links and allies in Merseyside
PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! A notorious drug boss fugitive who brazenly fled the UK as police closed the net around him was a household name in Warrington - but who had key associations with Merseyside. Leon Cullen was able to source himself a false passport and escape abroad while his gun and cocaine supplying operation, which at times netted £300,000 a month, began to show signs of total collapse. The high-profile organised crime boss laid low for two years as Cheshire Police and the National Crime Agency tried to track how down before he was eventually caught at the start of 2020 in Dubai. Yesterday, Cullen was jailed for 22 years and six months, joining his brother and trusted ally Anthony who was handed 27 years in 2019 for the same plot. And while the Cullen brothers became infamous and ultimately hated figures in their hometown of Warrington, their influence stretched across the northwest, with key alliances made in Liverpool. Police who launched a mission to covertly watch the siblings watched with great interest as a key conversation between Leon and an undisclosed Merseyside associate clearly demonstrated him working to source a gun to be used in criminal rivalries. Drug and gun trafficker Leon Cullen (Image: Cheshire Police) Chatter between the now-33-year-old and the "Liverpool number" led detectives to a raid on a home in Oxford Street, Warrington, where a Ruger.357 weapon was discovered. It had been deactivated, but an attempt had been made to re-activate it. Investigators were sure the "Liverpool number" had wanted a working gun with ammunition, with the Ruger worth up to £3,000 on the underworld market. Get a Liverpool Echo newsletter today The Liverpool Echo sends newsletters on a wide range of topics - including our daily news bulletin, now going out three times a day. There are others on what's on, politics, court news, Knowsley, Wirral, and arts & culture, as well as both Liverpool FC and Everton FC. Signing up is free and it only takes a minute for you to get the biggest stories, sent straight to your inbox. How to sign up for an Echo Email Update 1) Go to our dedicated newsletter page at this link. 2) Put your email in the box where indicated 3) Tick as many boxes as you like, for each newsletter you want. 4) Press Save changes and that's it! Hot on the heels of that find was a major raid on an address on Rylands Drive, on July 27, 2017, when a shocking arsenal of guns were found. One was linked to a shooting on Rose Avenue in Bootle in 2015 when bullets were fired at a living room when the occupant was home. The Rylands seizure was the largest in the history of Cheshire Police and demonstrated Leon, his brother, and "armourer" Christopher Houghton trying to gain a foothold on the gangland scene previously dominated by Liverpool and Manchester groups in the northwest. A cache of firearms seized from a house in Rylands Drive, Warrington, as part of a probe into a major drugs and guns gang headed by Anthony and Leon Cullen Inside the woman's home, where a child of school age also lived, was an ottoman which contained a Nike shoe box. Within that was an Asda carrier bag inside which was a silver-coloured revolver and a bullet inside a rubber glove. That gun was an Amadeo Rossi .38 Special, with a partly erased serial number, and which has been restored to working condition and which successfully fired conventional .38 bulleted ammunition in subsequent tests. The rest of the weapons were in the loft in a blue holdall concealed between joists under insulation. One was a working Russian AKM 7.62 assault rifle, with the gun and the magazine were separately wrapped in cellophane. Also found was a pump-action 12 bore shotgun, a Beretta 32” self-loading pistol and magazine containing two bullets, and an Enfield No. 2 Mk I .38 revolver manufactured in 1942 for British Service use. Drugs seized from the Cullen brothers (Image: Cheshire Police) Also part of the arsenal was a 9mm self-loading pistol with some identifying markings erased and two magazines suitable for use with it, a sound moderator wrapped in cellophane, 12 .38 special bulleted cartridges, 49 CBC 9mm Parabellum bulleted cartridges, and 37 bulleted cartridges suitable for use with the AK assault rifle. Leon Cullen was also plainly in cahoots with Lee Stoba, well-known for running an organised crime group in Merseyside. Stoba managed his drug-dealing from HMP Altcourse in Fazakerley before that was rumbled and he and his gang were jailed for more than 92 years. He managed the group like a military operation from his cell, using gang members to source Class A and B drugs, and then selling and distributing them to towns and cities across the UK. Stoba, who got 19 years in December 2017, and commanded recruits from places like Anfield, Walton and Old Swan, was a key communicator with Leon Cullen, swapping frantic slag texts as they tried to make large sums of money by peddling cocaine to communities across the UK, causing misery as they went. Leon was talking to Stoba while he was behind bars in Liverpool as Cullen repeatedly changed phones to try and avoid detection from the police, sourcing graft phones, and setting up the Future Press business in Warrington, which was little more than a front for some heavy duty money laundering. Drug boss Lee Stoba Many vehicles were used by the Cullens, one elaborate set-up involving a car which had a secret hide which was activated by the cigarette lighter, and at least three safe houses in the town on Boteler Court, Greenings Court and Lancaster Road. Leon and his brother had a "wage bill for employees", costing up to £50,000 a month, and developed a structure in which people making successful deliveries gained trust and therefore given more reward money and even accommodation. Violence was threatened and used by the Cullens with those who they felt had crossed them, one such example the beating given to Christopher Larosa in Sankey Valley Park who was subsequently dumped out of the organised crime group. Become an ambassador for your community Do you know your neighbourhood inside out and want to share what's great about where you live? Perhaps you're a champion for change, helping to improve things for others and organising all sorts of great initiatives. If so, you could become an Area Ambassador for your community with InYourArea.co.uk, our sister website and app that's about all things local. It gives you a platform to share the best things about where you live, unite your neighbours and push for positive change when you need to. Find out more here or email email@example.com The intimidation used by the brothers was sometimes loud and clear, one message sent in January 2017, which read: "Me da brotha me ladz bin on u alday neil and u blankd whats apnin” Another said: "Ant and Leon have found out that he bin slagging them off now so they want his head too wich is perfect haha.
News source = PremierLeague-News.Com
Cheshire Police released the shocking video showing Aaron Bretherton posing as a takeaway pizza delivery driver on Poplars Avenue in Warrington before opening fire on the unsuspecting step-dad of Liam Byrn Jr who was the intended target
(Image: Cheshire Police)
The mistaken identity shooting of 55-year-old David Barnes on Poplars Avenue, Orford, at the start of lockdown, March 2020, had links to the Cullens. That involved a gang from Liverpool being hired by an alleged underworld figure in Barcelona to fire at convicted heroin dealer Liam Byrne Jnr, but the plot was botched and serving soldier Aaron Bretherton, from Everton, instead got his step-dad, leaving him with a life-changing injury to his leg Later that night, the group, led by "fixer" Lewis Fitzpatrick, 26, knocked on the door of a home in nearby Longford, Warrington, hoping to shoot Charlie Cullen, Leon's dad. But the man who answered the door informed the would-be gunman, posing once more as a pizza delivery employee, that Mr Cullen no longer lived at the address, and no attack took place. While Leon Cullen laid low abroad, in the United Arab Emirates, gangland violence exploded in Warrington, on a level not seen previously. It was widely acknowledged to have roots to the fugitive, even though he was hiding many thousands of miles away, on a different continent.
There was a police presence in Monks Place, Warrington following reports of a shooting
As previously reported in the ECHO, the Cullens and their supporters suddenly came under fire from another crime group, from Salford, Manchester, who were demanding a debt of £200,000 to be paid. In November, 2019, a 37-year-old man was shot in the stomach in Woolston Park and then dumped outside the town's hospital before the black Volkswagen Golf was later found torched. Two months later, with ill-feeling directed towards the Cullens persisting, a shooting at a former amateur boxer took place near to a children's playground on Monks Place, Warrington, in January 2020, when he was said to be holding a young child in his arms as bullets flew past him. Another gangland incident with tentacles back to the Cullen's gang-related activities happened on Birtles Avenue in Orford in April 2020 when an explosive was planted in the front garden of a house. On Friday, at Liverpool Crown Court, prosecutors described Leon and Anthony operating at the same level of their hierarchy, but the twins having differing roles, or jobs. Leon was the man who communicated to those higher up the chain, those sourcing the drugs, specifically in this case, brothers Alan and John Tobin, who only recently were jailed for almost 40 years.
The Tobin brothers Alan Tobin, 52, (left) and John Tobin, 40, (right)
These siblings were heavyweight dealers who counted the gun-toting Warrington Cullen brothers among their customers, and also liaised heavily with another well-known Class A peddler, Jamie Oldroyd. The Tobins, Alan from Widnes, and John, formerly of Prescot, majored in cocaine, but also got heavily embroiled in selling cannabis, heroin and ketamine as their customer base ranged from Scotland to London, North Wales, Cornwall, West Yorkshire, Cumbria, Manchester and Humberside. Leon had repeated contact with the Tobins, and a cage fighter nicknamed "The Bear" - Robbie Broughton, who was the enforcer for the Tobins. Their empire came crashing down in 2018 when police seized £20m of cocaine on the M6 in an astonishing swoop, watched from the sky from helicopter and with suspect Jamie Simpson ordered to lie down on the hard shoulder of the motorway by armed police. Leon, described as a troubleshooter who was skilled at sorting out problems, got involved in his latest high-end criminal activities while on licence for a past serious cocaine dealing conviction. In March 2012, he was handed a sentence of nine years and eight months for a plot supplying more than five kilograms of coke, valued at more than £200,000, as he directed the transport of the drugs, and one accomplice was heard to deferentially say: "Leon has counted it," before indicating a package contained £20,000.
Police mugshots of Anthony and Leon Cullen
(Image: Cheshire Police)
After being released in approximately 2016/2017, Leon wasted little time in getting back involved in the high-level drugs trade. The Cullens paid their accomplices good money if they felt they could trust them and if they did their bidding, and one gang member bragged over text that he would be "balls deep in money." When the gang were sentenced in court in 2019, they received prison sentences totaling 185 years. Leon was missing, having fled abroad, sparking a global manhunt as he became one of the UK law enforcement's most wanted men. He, together with Anthony, supplied guns and drugs to customers and sent their henchmen to threaten customers and addicts who owed them a debt. On one occasion, Sean Ryan drove to Crewe, with two bullets, knocked on people's doors, and showed them the ammunition as a clear threat about what would happen if they didn't pay up.
A selfie style photograph of Leon Cullen thought to have been taken in Dubai
Later today, police stopped him in a car, and the bullets were on the front seat, along with a knife, and a debt list, which also referenced Stoba. Judge Gary Woodhall told Leon Cullen on Friday: "I'm perfectly satisfied you played a leading role. "You had substantial links to and influence and others in the chain. "The cocaine supplied was of a very high quantity. "You were in direct contact with those upstream who were importing the drugs.
Where to get help or advice about drugs
Your GP is a good place to start. They can discuss your problems with you and get you into treatment. They may offer you treatment at the practice or refer you to your local drug service. If you're not comfortable talking to your GP, you can approach your local drug treatment service yourself. Visit the Frank website to find local drug treatment services. If you're having trouble finding the right sort of help, call the Frank drugs helpline on 0300 123 6600. They can talk you through all your options.
"You had close links to the original source. "You have a very significant previous conviction, for which your received a substantial sentence. "This previous conviction is more serious than that of your brother, and aggravates your sentence to a greater extent. "You were on licence for other offences at the time, and you continued your involvement while in custody." Detective Chief Inspector Mike Evans, from the Serious and Organised Crime Uni of Cheshire Police, said: “Leon operated a network that was wide spread and included the supply of cocaine and firearms to other organised crime groups across the North West.
The scene on Birtles Road, Orford, Warrington sealed off after a device was found.
(Image: Liverpool Echo)
“When he fled the country in 2018 a significant policing operation began that was built on information from the local community, along with other sensitive networks, that centred on uncovering the identity that he was using to travel. “Once we knew the details of the false passport that had been sought to him from his associates it was then easy to narrow him down to the United Arab Emirates." “Leon was the leader of the organised crime group alongside his brother Anthony but we know there are still people in the community who are close to him and are continuing his criminality. “My message to those people is we will come for you."
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