A CAREER criminal who masterminded a five tonne cocaine plot from his prison cell is facing another lengthy term inside.
Russell Knaggs, 38, from Conisbrough, who was an inmate at Lowdham Grange Prison in Nottinghamshire, has been convicted of conspiracy to import cocaine along with two criminal associates. A fourth man also pleaded guilty.
The organised crime group was unaware that the Serious Organised Crime Agency and its partners were monitoring their every move in the UK and overseas, gathering evidence from coded conversations and meetings.
The men referred to their plan as a “plastering job” in an attempt to avoid detection and talked of making a “shed load of dough”.
The plan was to ship the cocaine in batches from Colombia to Costa Rica where it would be concealed in consignments of fruit. Each batch was to be placed in a container on a ship heading for Longbeach USA where it would be put on a larger ship going to Hamburg. The group then planned to transport the cocaine to the UK in smaller loads hidden inside cars.
They failed, after losing the down payment on the first batch of cocaine when their Colombian contact was gunned down by a rival cartel. Despite further attempts, distrust set in and Knaggs eventually called things off.
During the investigation, prison staff searched cells and recovered a blueprint for importing cocaine, a list of Colombian drug contacts and notebooks containing flight details and locations for meetings.
A SIM card Knaggs hid inside legal material was found by independent counsel.
Knaggs’ criminal associates on the outside were Phillip Hadley, 52, from Doncaster, Robert Rich, 40, from Barnsley, and Anthony Perger, 51, from Sheffield, who all travelled extensively and acted as negotiators and facilitators.
All four men were arrested and charged within months of Knaggs’ release in June 2010. He had been serving a 16-year sentence for drug trafficking after an investigation by SOCA’s predecessor, the National Crime Squad.
Gerry Smyth, SOCA’s North East Regional Head of Investigations, said: “Knaggs believed he could safely continue business from behind bars but he was wrong.
“This case shows that prisoners, like everyone else, are not beyond reach. Knaggs and his cohorts can reflect on that as they now await their sentences.”
The four men will be sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on March 2.
The jury found three other men, including two who were in the same prison as Knaggs, not guilty of the conspiracy to import cocaine.