23 September 2016
A man who used a series of false identities to stay on the run for six years, before being tracked down in Greece and brought back to the UK has been jailed for 14 years.
Simon Dutton, 40, originally from Bolton, was arrested in the Greek city of Thessaloniki in December 2015, following an operation involving the National Crime Agency and Hellenic Police.
He was wanted in connection with a conspiracy to import class A drugs into the UK using an unsuspecting courier service. The cocaine was concealed within four separate shipments from Spain between July and September 2009.
Dutton and his associates also set up a company in Leeds called ‘Cool Technics’ to enable the shipments to enter the UK.
On the 1 September 2009, officers intercepted and found 10.5 kilogrammes of high grade Cocaine with a street value of £1.5million stashed in the air conditioning units.
The drugs were removed and the units delivered to the company in Leeds where they were collected by Luke Hurst, who was arrested and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and firearms offences.
Investigators subsequently searched five properties across Greater Manchester linked to Dutton and found large quantities of cocaine, drug making equipment, weapons, cash and false documentation.
In total 18 other members of Dutton’s gang were arrested and convicted in April 2010, receiving combined sentences of more than 170 years in prison.
At the time of the arrests, Dutton evaded capture and fled the UK. A European arrest warrant was issued at Liverpool Magistrates Court in July 2011.
He had forged an Irish passport under the name of John Patrick McManus, allowing him to travel around Europe undetected around 30 times.
Dutton was finally arrested on the 27th of December 2015 after being traced to a hotel in Thessaloniki, Greece. He was found in possession of a string of false identity documents, a substantial amount of cash, class A drugs, ignition keys to several different cars (pictured right).
The operation to track him down involved the NCA, Greek police, Greater Manchester Police and Cheshire Police.
In February 2016 he was extradited from Greece to the United Kingdom bringing an end to his extended time on the run from law enforcement dating back to 2009.
He was sentenced to 14 years for drug, fraud and money laundering offences at Liverpool Crown Court on Friday 23 September 2016.
NCA Branch Commander Jayne Lloyd said: “Dutton was one of the main players in a large and lucrative criminal organisation based in the north west of England.
“He spent six years on the run from law enforcement, but the NCA has global reach and we never give up the hunt.
“We are grateful to our partners in the UK and the Hellenic Police who helped us track down Dutton and bring him back to the UK to face justice.”
Detective Sergeant Colin Shackleton from Greater Manchester Police said: “Today’s sentence brings to an end a prolonged multi agency investigation spanning across Europe.
“Dutton and his associates led lavish lifestyles living well beyond their means and purchasing expensively furnished houses, high powered cars, jewellery and foreign holidays using the proceeds of their illicit enterprise.
“I want to pay tribute to the intelligence and operational teams in Thessaloniki and Athens Greek police who played a vital role in finding and catching Dutton.
“I hope that this sends the message that no matter where you go and how long you run for, we will find you and bring you to justice.”