A space dealer fled Spain with the help of a colleague when police discovered his 10 10 million drug den – but he was eventually brought to justice.
Matthew Styles, 34, of Middleton, had a shipping container where officers found large quantities of powder, chemicals and marshmallow leaves used in the manufacture of the so-called ‘zombie’ drug.
Greater Manchester Police say Stiles, an Oldham-based spice dealer, was a “useful” dealer who imported materials from China and supplied drugs to Manchester.
He first came to the attention of the police in early 2017.
After rebranding Masala as a Class B drug in December 2016, the GMP launched an operation in the Piccadilly Garden area around anti-social behavior and drug use.
Public Square was synonymous with drugs at the time.
During the surveillance, Stiles was spotted at a shop where he bought marshmallow leaves, which are used to make spices, police said.
He was also spotted under surveillance on a shipping container in Middleton, which was finally raided on December 8, 2017.
In the container, officers discovered 1.5kg of cannabinoid powder, acetone and 70kg of marshmallow leaves, as well as equipment needed to make spice.
Officers then searched Stiles’ home and found a delivery note for a package from China, which was used to import cannabinoids for making spices.
Numerous Styles phones also provided substantial evidence of his involvement in spice handling and importing materials.
Investigations revealed that Stiles had bought enough marshmallow leaves to produce 647 kilograms of spices, which would cost more than a million pounds.
He failed to appear in court in 2018 and after working through spies, it was discovered that he had fled the Channel Tunnel to France and then to Britain in a hired car.
He was assisted by Keith Pritchard, 58, of Bergister Walk, Collist, who parked and drove from the UK and arranged for travel tickets.
Pritchard was arrested on his return to the UK in December 2018, and Stiles was later arrested in the UK on 19 August 2020.
Both were charged with conspiracy to undermine justice and pleaded guilty in April 2021. Pritchard was jailed for 18 months.
After pleading guilty in an earlier hearing, Stiles was sentenced to 11-and-a-half years in prison at Manshol Street Crown Court for conspiracy to supply a Class B drug (spice), conspiracy to manufacture a Class B drug (spice), and import of spices. And other charges. Conspiracy to distort the path of justice.
Patrick Goodrich, the GMP’s chief detective for the Manchester division, said: “The evidence we have found makes it clear that Styles was a huge supplier who was at risk. Taking advantage of its weaknesses only increases its selfish, illegitimate, business profits.
“The supply of drugs is absolutely unacceptable and I hope this punishment encourages other people who have been affected by drugs in their area, let us know so we can take action.
“We follow and will continue to follow what we receive from people about the supply and manufacture of drugs,” he said.
“Today shows that no matter how big your productivity is, we have the resources and processes to take you down.”