A drug-dealing gang that used a real estate agency as a front has been sentenced to prison. The ringleader, Jeremy Southgate, 63, purchased properties throughout Hull and converted them into cannabis production facilities. Southgate created fake tenant agreements and even opened a storefront with counterfeit property listings. The operation was estimated to generate £11.4m annually.
The investigation by Humberside Police began when a search of one of Southgate’s properties revealed £74,000 worth of cannabis plants. Surveillance was initiated on Southgate’s real estate agency, managed by Florjan Kasaj. A total of 15 properties were raided, revealing thousands of cannabis plants, cultivation equipment, and cash. It was also found that Southgate had obtained government grants to insulate the buildings to prevent the detection of the drug operation. An additional £50,000 was recovered from Southgate’s boat in Hull Marina.
The police reported that the drug production facilities were operated by illegal immigrants from Albania. Southgate was convicted on multiple charges including conspiracy to produce Class B drugs, money laundering, and fraud by false representation, and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Kasaj, 41, was found guilty of conspiracy to produce Class B drugs and received a seven-year sentence. Other members of the gang, Ervis Mrisgaj, 25, Dardan Mrishaj, 37, and Enver Rrushi, 33, were also convicted on similar charges and received sentences ranging from three to five-and-a-half years.
The police stated that an additional ten individuals were charged with drug-related offenses between 2018 and 2023 as part of the investigation and have since been convicted. Detective Constable Karen Smith expressed satisfaction that the men are now incarcerated, noting that the lengthy and complex investigation eventually led to the dismantling of the criminal network and prevented a significant quantity of Class B drugs from reaching the streets.