A sophisticated drugs gang who were producing vast quantities of fake street Valium in a back-street garage in a Breaking Bad-style operation were yesterday jailed for a total of 19 years.
Scott McGaw, 33, of Victoria Road, Paisley, and Eric Reid, 45, of Blackwood Terrace, Johnstone, were convicted of producing the drug Etizolam at 47 Back Sneddon Street, Paisley, between 26th May, 2016 and 1st March, 2017.
Harry Ingle admitted being involved in the production and supply of Etizolam between 26th May, 2016, and 1st March, 2017. and Nicholas Conway pleaded guilty to being involved in the supply between 24 February and March 1, 2017.
Yesterday at the High Court in Glasgow judge Lord Burns told the four that they were motivated by “greed” and the chance to make easy money. The High Court in Glasgow heard that Conway boasted to friends of being offered £11,000 for a few days work.
He jailed McGaw, who runs a hair transplant franchise in Scotland and Ireland, for five years, Mechanic Reid and Ingle for five and a half years each. Conway, who was involved in the operation for a shorter period was jailed for three years.
Lord Burns said: “This drug was being produced on an industrial scale. You must have one of the major sources of what was described as a flood of this drug into Scotland.
“You were aware it would be illegal to produce this drug which has potential to cause serious harm to people who abuse it.”
Police, who raided the Paisley drugs factory found 1,676,094 Etizolam pills, which are dubbed the Blue Plague, with a maximum street value of £1.676m.
Pills were being churned out a machine and many more were bagged and stored in holdall for onward supply.
The court heard that Ingle, 41, from Reading, Berkshire, and Conway, 45, from London, were caught red-handed, but initially claimed they were there as cleaners, before their part in the operation.
McGaw provided the cash to set up the running of the operation which required hi-tech machinery including a £20,000 pill press capable of churning out 250,000 tablets an hour. Reid was the facilitator who rented the premises and organised the delivery of materials from as far afield as China.
McGaw and Reid claimed they walked away from the operation when Etizolam changed from a “legal high” to an illegal drug.
Etizolam was initially a ‘legal high’ but after a number of deaths linked to it, the law was changed and it became an illegal drug on 26th May, 2016.
Detective Constable Greig Baxter, a drug specialist with Police Scotland’s STOP unit, said: “This was the biggest production of Etizolam I’ve ever attended. I know of no-one who has come across a pill press press operation as large as this in the UK.”
DC Baxter added: “In March 2017 Etizolam was selling for 50 pence or £1 a pill. We found 1,676,094 tablets on the premises. If sold for £1 a tablet this would realise £1,676,000.:
Initially only Reid, Ingle and Conway were charged, but McGaw was added to the indictment after incriminating texts between him and Ingle came to light.
In one Ingle referring to the machinery in the drug factory being fixed after breaking down said: “It is purring like a Cheshire cat,” and McGaw replied: “Yeah, we’re up and running.”
None of the accused gave evidence during the trial.
Solicitor advocate Bob Mitchell, representing McGaw, said: “He is the franchise holder for a hair transplant company in Scotland and Ireland. He maintains the position he took at trial, but accepts what he did is at least morally wrong and is ashamed of himself.”
QC Brian McConnachie, representing Reid, said: “His criminal background is extremely limited. His position remains the same as it was at trial. It is a grey area at the time corner shops were selling these items.”
Main Photo: (Left to Right) Ingle, Conway, McGaw and Reid
Photo Credit: Police Scotland