Nearly £40,000 of drugs cash found after van stopped near Honiton
PUBLISHED: 14:50 08 June 2020 | UPDATED: 14:50 08 June 2020
A man has been jailed after police found nearly £40,000 of drugs cash hidden in a secret compartment in his van.
James Whiteman was acting as courier taking money back to the home counties when he was stopped by police near Honiton.
He had built a hidden compartment into the floor of the Renault van which could only be opened with an electronic key.
The metal box was concealed under a pile of old fence panels which he claimed to be delivering, but were really there to act as cover.
Police believe the £39,970 cash discovered was the profits of a County Lines drug dealing operation being run in Exeter or East Devon and was being taken back to London, Essex or Hertfordshire.
Whiteman only bought the van 16 days before his arrest on April 21 and in that time, he had installed the hidden compartment and made one previous trip to Devon.
He was stopped by police on the A30 at Honiton during the height of the lockdown, when only essential travel was allowed.
Whiteman, aged 40, of Welwyn Garden City, admitted possession of criminal property and was jailed for a year and ten months by Judge Timothy Rose at Exeter Crown Court.
Judge Rose ordered the seizure of the van, which Whiteman bought for £1,500 cash.
He told him: “It is plain you were involved in quite high-level criminal activity.
“It is perfectly obvious it was criminal money and you were playing a significant part in serious crime.
“This was planned and organised and not something that came out of a quick conversation in a pub.
“It is obvious you had the van converted for this use with a fairly sophisticated compartment operated by an electronic key fob.
“It was an attempt to conceal what was going on.”
Archangelo Power, defending, said there was nothing in the van to link it or Whiteman to drug dealing.
He said: “The previous owner sold it because it kept breaking down. You might think it was not the most reliable vehicle to be using to transfer money during the lockdown when most roads were being heavily patrolled by the police.”
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