Members of a British family-run crime syndicate have been sent to prison for a total of more than 14 years after they were caught running an international drugs operation from a luxury villa in Spain.
Ringleader Adam Maybury headed up the business, which at its peak brought in £45,000 a month through the sale of research chemicals, including amphetamines 4-MEC and 4-FA.
Maybury ordered kilos of the drugs from the Netherlands and sold them worldwide via multiple websites that purported to offer protein and sports meal replacements. According to the UK’s National Crime Agency, the substances shipped to countries including New Zealand, Japan and Brazil.
Birmingham Crown Court heard how Maybury’s mother, sister, cousin and best friend were involved in the operation, and how he ripped his associates off by paying them “peanuts” while using the thousands he made to take luxury holidays in countries such as Australia and Cuba.
Over a three-year period, Maybury and his gang sold some 20kg of drugs, using a number of properties in Spain and the UK to package, label and distribute the substances as part of a large-scale “production line”.
Maybury was sentenced to nine years in jail after pleading guilty to conspiracy to import class A drugs, conspiracy to import class B drugs, conspiring to supply class A drugs, conspiring to supply class B drugs and concealing criminal property. Other members of the gang received sentences of up to three years, while Maybury’s mother and sisters were handed suspended sentences.
Sarah Dillon, from the Organised Crime Division at the Crown Prosecution Service, commented: “Today’s sentences bring an end to Adam Maybury’s online family business which pretended to sell sports supplements but was a front for supplying illegal drugs through the post. The scheme earned substantial amounts of money and allowed Maybury to enjoy holidays in Cuba and Australia and rent a property in Spain.”
Although relatively new, the substances Maybury sold have been illegal in countries including the UK and Germany for a number of years. They were originally sold as “research chemicals” online towards the end of the 2000s, and then as so-called legal highs, but remain legally available in some regions.
4-MEC, for example, was banned in the UK along with Mephedrone in 2010. At the time, some commentators suggested that outlawing drugs such as these would push them underground, and only benefit dealers. Similar accusations were levelled at the UK government’s Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, which was introduced in May as a blanket ban on so-called legal highs.
While the substances covered by the 2010 ban and the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 have largely been successfully removed from “head shops” in the UK, they are still freely available to British buyers from sites such as those operated by Maybury, as well as on the dark web.