Seven people have been jailed for nearly 40 years and drugs worth more than £300,000 seized following an operation in which detectives cracked a major Carlisle-based crime group.
Cumbria Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit smashed the set-up after launching Operation Oberlin as part of the work going on every day to tackle drugs trafficking and supply in the county.
During three separate parts of the operation, investigations by officers led to drugs including cocaine, cannabis and MDMA being seized, along with cash totalling more than £60,000 and items including an imitation firearm, knuckle dusters and Rolex watches worth thousands of pounds.
It led to the dismantling of an organised crime group led by Stephen Dixon, 35, formerly of Blackwell Road, Carlisle, who was orchestrating his criminal enterprise from his prison cell in HMP Northumberland, where he was already serving a sentence for a previous offence.
He was assisted by Dylan Schwencke, 25, of Warnell Drive, Carlisle – with the pair even boasting by phone message about how they could not be caught.
But the work of officers on this operation did lead to them being caught - and also means a huge haul of drugs never made it to destinations including the streets and communities of Cumbria.
Three people had already been sentenced in court hearings linked to the operation but another four faced justice today (March 5) at Carlisle Crown Court, bringing the total sentences involved to 38 years and 9 months.
Those sentenced today were:
Stephen Dixon, 35, formerly of Blackwell Road, Carlisle. He was jailed for 8 years and 8 months after admitting conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
Dylan Schwencke, 25, of Warnell Drive, Carlisle. He was jailed for 10 years and 6 months after admitting conspiracy to supply class A drugs and conspiracy to convey prohibited articles into prison.
Chance Beardmore, 23, formerly of Bedford Road, Birkenhead. He was jailed for 3 years 6 months after admitting conspiracy to convey prohibited articles into prison.
Clare Karpinksi, 46, of Bedford Road, Birkenhead. She was jailed for 27 months after admitting conspiracy to convey prohibited articles into prison.
Those previously sentenced were:
Simon Pipes, 30, of Peter Gate, Cumwhinton. He was jailed for six years after admitting possession with intent to supply class A drugs.
Ellis Graham, 23, of Hopeshill Drive, Carlisle. He was jailed for three years and four months after admitting possession with intent to supply class A drugs.
Warren Graham, 26, of Levens Drive, Carlisle. He was jailed for four years and six months after admitting conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
How did the operation catch the offenders?
The group was headed by Dixon, who orchestrated crime from his prison cell at HMP Northumberland, relying heavily on Schwencke.
In phone evidence, Dixon boasted: “I am not a stupid lad that’s why I’ve done things for years and not one thing has gone wrong.”
Schwencke even complimented Dixon on their success as drug criminals by saying they were “flat out for 2 year they cudnt catch us.”
Part one of the operation
Beardmore, Schwencke and Karpinski had been involved in a move to get drugs into HMP Northumberland on December 23, 2019.
Two packages containing a haul including cocaine, cannabis bush, prescription drugs, alcohol, syringes, steroids and mobile phones were thrown over a perimeter fence.
The total value could be as high as £32,000.
The two packages were thrown over the perimeter fence into an area behind the laundry room.
At the time of the throw, Chance Beardmore was in the laundry room at work.
Prison officers intercepted the packages just as Beardmore had escaped from the laundry room to collect them.
The delivery of the packages had been organised by Dylan Schwencke and Chance Beardmore inside the prison.
Beardmore had recruited his mum, Clare Karpinski to deliver the packages to the prison using her own vehicle.
She was identified driving her vehicle on CCTV at Wetherby Services in west Yorkshire after the throw.
Part two of the operation
Pipes was caught after a warrant was carried out at a property he was renting in Cumwhinton, a lock-up in Rome Street and an industrial unit in Willow Holme Road, both Carlisle, in early January 2020.
Seized from these locations was cocaine worth more than £100,000, MDMA tablets, an imitation firearm, two knuckle dusters, three Rolex watches valued at £28,550 and a Hugo Boss watch – as well as cash totalling more than £60,000.
Police retrieved messages from a number of mobile phones which highlighted the roles of Dixon and Schwencke in the supply of drugs to Pipes.
Messages demonstrated that Schwencke was Pipes’ supplier.
They also revealed that Stephen Dixon was a party to the same conspiracy and maintained overall control of Pipes’ access to drugs despite being in prison.
Pipes complained to Dixon that Schwencke had been an unreliable supplier while Dixon had been in prison and threatened the empire Dixon had built.
Pipes warned Dixon that if the operation continued in such a poor way Dixon would not have his “round” to come out to.
Pipes also required Dixon’s intervention when supply ran low from Schwencke.
Other messages showed Dixon and Schwencke considered Pipes to be in debt to them as a result of his arrest and they planned to recoup this debt once he was released.
Part three of the operation
On January 30 last year, Ellis Graham was stopped by police on Peter Lane, just outside Carlisle.
Graham was nervous and gave a confusing reason for his journey that evening which caused officers to search his vehicle.
Two wrapped, kilo blocks of cocaine were found in the van he was driving, worth up to £199,400.
Phone evidence showed the involvement of his brother, Warren Graham.
After examining Ellis Graham’s phone it was clear to Police that Schwencke had been passing instructions to Ellis and his brother Warren Graham.
The Graham brothers discussed in detail how they had been employed by Schwencke to collect and store the drugs.
Police later retrieved messages between Dixon and Schwencke which showed that Dixon was the senior partner in the conspiracy involving the Graham brothers and was unhappy with its execution and the outcome.
Dixon told Schwencke that he was careless and putting them both at risk.
Dixon said that when the Grahams were arrested, Schwencke’s error was not collecting the drugs himself because had he done so their operation would not have been affected.
It was clear from these messages that Dixon and Schwencke’s operation was now in jeopardy.
Police message to those involved in drugs crime
Speaking after the court hearings, Detective Chief Inspector David Cooper welcomed the sentencings.
He said: “This should send a stark warning to all those seeking to profit from drugs offences in our county.
“This was a Carlisle-based organised crime group which had links to Merseyside.
“The actions of this operation saw drugs with a huge value prevented from reaching the streets.
“Bringing this many offenders to justice was challenging and complex but was matched by the determination, tenacity and skill of the detectives involved.
“The substantial custodial sentences handed out today are welcomed and should be seen as a warning and the inevitable consequence for anyone getting involved in this type of crime.
“Cumbria Police will be relentless in targeting and disrupting all those involved in such offences.
“We appeal to the whole community to help us to help stop the flow of drugs to our streets and communities.”
Following the sentences, Proceeds of Crime proceedings are set to be launched to strip offenders of illegally-made assets.
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said: “I want to congratulate the officers involved in this superb operation, involving painstaking police work which the public generally do not see.
“Cases like this require detailed and thoroughly professional policing.
“The fight to stop drugs and the crime and devastation they bring to our communities and particularly young people remains one of the highest priorities for the police; we will not let up on pursuing those who deal drugs in Cumbria and I welcome stiff sentences for these criminals who have no regard for the harm they cause, particularly on young and vulnerable people.
“The money seized from this operation will be placed in to the Property Fund which puts these illegally-gained funds back in our communities to create a safer Cumbria for all."
More information on the Property Fund can be found here: Making a Real Difference - PCC Awards £227, 478 to Community Projects Since the Start of the Pandemic - Cumbria Police and Crime Commissioner (cumbria-pcc.gov.uk)
Mr McCall added: “I want criminals who think about dealing in drugs in Cumbria to think again, they will be pursued and brought to justice.
“I know the public do not want to see drugs on our streets and together with the police we are determined to continue to deal with this and the related crime it causes.
“We can all help in this battle against drugs and dealers and I would urge anyone who knows anything about drugs being dealt in Cumbria to report it – let’s work together to make Cumbria a safer place to live, work and visit.”
Anyone with information about drugs offences can call police on 101 or report online at cumbria.police.uk.