Pharmacy van drivers stole lifesaving black market drugs

Van drivers tasked with delivering crucial drugs to pharmacies in the North West instead stole them and allowed them to enter the black market.

Richard Gaskell, Tristan Keddie and David Tilley all worked as van drivers transporting lifesaving pharmaceuticals to pharmacies during the Covid pandemic. The three men were subcontracted to work for Warrington-based AAH Pharmaceuticals, a drug manufacturing company responsible for supplying area pharmacies.

Yet Liverpool Crown Court today heard that at the end of 2020 the men were involved in a scheme to steal drugs worth thousands so they could be sold illegally. Martyn Walsh, prosecuting, said an as-yet-unidentified individual would place fake orders on behalf of pharmacies using the hotline, and the men would then steal these products to resell.

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He said the drugs stolen were “very strong painkillers, Class B and C controlled drugs,” including codeine, dihydrocodeine and tramadol. Mr Walsh said a range of factors linked to the onset of the Covid pandemic had made the business more vulnerable to theft.

He said pharmacies were taking large orders of drugs and had to place new orders through a newly opened call centre, meaning they were less likely to notice fake orders early on. Mr Walsh said: ‘The volume of deliveries during the pandemic and the fact that it was ordered through a call center meant that it would be possible for them to be charged for orders without noticing.

Gaskell, 44, Keddie, 31 and Tilley, 59, were caught on CCTV in December delivering orders to pharmacies in the North West, with the fake orders then being stolen. The men were later accused of theft by an employee and pleaded guilty. No one has ever indicated who else was involved in the scheme.

AAH Pharmaceuticals said in a commercial statement to court that it had lost around £22,300 as a result of the scheme, although only part of that sum can be attributed to the men in court today, with Gaskell and Keddie linked to losses of just under £7,000 and Tilley linked to a loss of £269.40 Lawyers representing the three men said they expressed remorse for their role in the scheme.

Judge David Swinnerton said stealing highly addictive and potentially deadly drugs in order to resell them contributed to the seriousness of the case and said the scheme was an example of criminals taking advantage of the pandemic. He said: “Someone somewhere realized there was money to be made with some of these boxes if they disappeared in the back of your vans and into the black market.”

None of the men had recent criminal convictions and Judge Swinnerton said that, combined with the relatively small amounts stolen and the fact that the offenses took place nearly 18 months ago, the men could face restraining orders. community or suspended sentences. However, he said conversations captured on CCTV showed Keddie was “a rung higher” in the plot than Gaskell and Tilley.

Keddie, of Northway, Warrington, was sentenced to nine months in jail, suspended for 18 months. He must also complete 15 days of rehabilitation and 200 hours of unpaid work.

Gaskell, of Shaw Road, Hesketh Bank, was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for 12 months. He must complete 25 days of rehabilitation.

Tilley, of Scott Road, Southport, was sentenced to a 12-month community order and 20 days rehabilitation. He also has to pay £30 a month to court to pay off his debt.

A fourth man charged in connection with the same plot, Daniel Lucock, will be sentenced later.

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