Seven men who ran an elaborate plot to smuggle guns into Leicester from more than 100 miles away have been jailed.
The group transported the weapons from Manchester and London but were foiled after officers from the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) were onto their plans.
In August 2020 their crimes came to an end when two members were stopped by officers in Elstree Avenue, Leicester. A search of the white Mercedes they were using uncovered a sports bag containing four handguns, magazines and ammunition.
It had been established that one man from Leicester was the intended buyer of the weapons, with the rest of the group acting as brokers and couriers for the deal.
Further enquiries then led to the arrest of five other men.
Mobile phones owned by the group contained messages between them in which they discussed moving the guns and ammunition between the two cities.
They were subsequently charged and prior to a trial taking place, six of the seven pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transfer prohibited weapons and conspiracy to transfer ammunition at Leicester Crown Court.
A seventh man pleaded guilty to the charges during the trial.
On Friday 11 March, at the same court, the group were sentenced for their crimes.
Detective Inspector Lee Hunt, from EMSOU, said: “By bringing guns into Leicester, there is no doubt that the group were putting the lives of people across the city and county at risk.
“They developed a plan they thought would be fool-proof and that their movements would go unnoticed – but due to information obtained and the dedication, skill and hard work of our officers, we were able to stop them in their tracks.
“I hope the public can take comfort knowing how seriously we take all reports of firearm use – and that a group intent on causing harm and committing criminal offences are now serving prison sentences.
“Our communities are our eyes and ears and I would continue to ask anyone with information or concerns to report such matters to us.”
A 24-year-old woman from Manchester was also found guilty of assisting an offender and was dealt with by way of a conditional discharge
Another man – a 22-year-old from Manchester – was also charged with conspiracy to transfer prohibited weapons and conspiracy to transfer ammunition but was acquitted following a trial.