A RAMSBOTTOM man has been jailed for his role in picking up huge amounts of cocaine from ports across the UK.

Pasquelino Mazzuca’s work as courier for drug dealer Alexander Hepworth was uncovered after police officers raided the 53-year-old’s Bury-based premises and found over 2,000 ecstasy tablets.

WhatsApp messages between the pair revealed how Mazzuca, of Holden Avenue, was travelling to Plymouth and Harwich, and taking delivery of drugs directly off arriving boats.

At Minshull Street Crown Court, Wayne Jackson, prosecuting, outlined the details of the operation, describing Mazzuca as Hepworth’s “right-hand man”.

Mr Jackson said officers raided a unit at Chesham Industrial Estate in Bury in July 2019. They found 2,132 ecstasy tablets worth around £20,000 on the premises with Mazzuca’s fingerprints on the bags.

The investigation into the men stemmed from another SOCG operation - codenamed Heart - in Bury where three siblings from the Din family spearheaded a multi-million pound cross-Pennine class A drug conspiracy, which ultimately saw 18 men and women jailed in 2020 for almost 140 years.

Phone messages led officers to Hepworth, of Alden Road, Helmshore, and they found the pair where delivering quantities of cocaine “in large quantities” of up to one kilo.

Officers estimate at least 30kg of cocaine was trafficked across the country with an estimated value of £3m.

The drugs were often transported hidden inside tubs of e45 moisturising cream.

Hepworth, 30, played the leading role and would give instructions to Mazzuca on where to go and how much cash to collect along with details of vehicles and “passwords” to use.

The password 'diamond' was used for a £70,000 sale of what investigators believe to have been 10kg of heroin supplied to two unknown people in Rawtenstall.

Hepworth was also found to use expensive encrypted phones which are difficult for officers to recover data from.

Defending Mazzuca, Ronan Maguire, said he had begun working with Hepworth to pay off debts and was previously a man of good character.

Julian Goode, defending Hepworth, said his client had two young children who he had seen just once while on remand for the last 17 months.

Jailing Mazzuca, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and possession of ecstasy with intent to supply, to 11 years and two months imprisonment, and Hepworth to 16 years and nine months, Judge Sophie McKone, said: “When you become involved in this level of drug dealing it has to attract very lengthy custodial sentences.”

Following the sentences, Detective Constable Chris Chinnery, of GMP's Serious and Organised Crime Group, said: "Today's result is very satisfying after a rigorous investigation into the roles that these two men played in the supply of class A drugs into Greater Manchester from across the region and further afield.

"When looking through the array of messages that Hepworth and Mazzuca exchanged with each other it is clear that they operated in a manner where they thought they could never be caught for their illicit activities, however they couldn’t have been more wrong.

"Hepworth never put himself in a position where he was at risk of getting detected and tried to make as much money as he could through Mazzuca's willingness to travel as far as it took to make a sale, which ultimately saw him leaving fingerprints on a batch of drugs which was able to unravel this particular conspiracy.

"What they both had in common was their disregard of the law, of the legitimate means of making money that the rest of decent people in society abide by, and ultimately their greed for making money no matter the illegality of their enterprise.

"It is another two men off the streets of Greater Manchester who wish to profit from the desperation of those who ruin their lives becoming reliant on class A drugs, and we are prepared to do all we can to continue removing such offenders from our towns and cities."