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Ex-footballer who ran cocaine dealing operation while managing Welsh club is jailed

John Lawless was the manager of a top Welsh club while running his drug operation
Clodagh Meaney

A convicted drug dealer has been unmasked as an ex Champions League footballer who was running a heroin and crack cocaine operation in tandem with his role as a manager at a top Welsh club.

John Lawless (36) was a midfielder for The New Saints FC who played in the UEFA Champions League before becoming a manager in the lower leagues.

He has been described as one of the most prolific drug dealers in the East Yorkshire town of Hull, who flooded the city with Class A drugs.

A father of six, Lawless was a promising footballer who played for his Welsh side against Liverpool during the first round of the Champions League in 2005.

He came on as a sub in front of 45,000 fans at Anfield where his team were defeated 3-0. A massive fan of the English side, Lawless has the team’s emblem, a liver bird, tattooed on his upper arm.

He also played for Marine FC, Burscough and Vauxhall Motors. He was managing football team Prestatyn Town in North Wales when he was arrested for County Lines dealing in January.

Police in Humberside and Merseyside worked together in an undercover operation to bring down his drug empire.

Daniel Condliff (26), was considered the ring leader of the operation who sourced and supplied the drugs from Liverpool while Lawless acted as an 'area manager' with 11 drug dealers working under him in Hull.

Daniel made and received an average of 320 calls and messages per day to an unregistered mobile phone, known as a burner phone. Police uncovered 650 messages sent to John regarding moving drugs from Liverpool to Hull.

Police say drug deals made between March 9, 2020 to January 4, 2021 were valued at £1 million.

They were arrested during joint raids on January 4th this year. During the raids, officers discovered bundles of cash, heroin and cocaine and a Japanese style fighting knife.

Appearing in court last month, both men admitted to the possession and intent of supplying heroin and crack cocaine, and being involved in the supply of heroin and crack cocaine at Hull Crown Court.

Mr Lawless’s defence said that was working as a painter and a decorator before the pandemic but turned to drug dealing as he struggled for money.

John Lawless was sentenced to seven years behind bars, meanwhile Daniel Condliffe received a 10 year sentence.

Humberside Police officer DS Matthew Grantham, who led investigation, said: “We believe that by stopping this gang’s activities we have prevented significant amounts of heroin and crack cocaine from being sold on the streets of Hull and the associated crime and anti-social behaviour that goes with this kind of offending.”

“We know the impact this has on our communities and that’s why we will do everything we can to find those who are responsible and bring them to justice.”

“Hopefully the sentences handed down to these two men, and those working beneath them will serve as a warning to others looking to come to our towns and cities to deal drugs that they’re not welcome here and we won’t tolerate it.”

“I would like to thank our colleagues in Merseyside for their support, as well as the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre, which provided a massive support throughout the investigation.”

“I would also like to thank all the people who contact us with information about drug dealing and drug-related crime in their areas.”

“It’s thanks to you that we can put together successful operations like this one and make it clear that if you’re looking to sell drugs, Humberside is not an easy target.”

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