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Dealer who used Muhammad Ali quotes to sell drugs in Gloucester is - like thunder - thrown in jail

A drug dealer sent out a message inspired by boxing legend Muhammed Ali to offer cocaine at a discount price to users in Gloucestershire, a court heard today.

"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, Creed is in town, three for twenty," was the message Andreas Mason, 23, texted on his 'county lines' phone, Gloucester crown court was told.

Mason, 23, of Rolls Road, Bermondsey, London admitted being in possession of £9,000 worth of crack cocaine in Gloucester on April 27, this year.

However, he disputed the level of his involvement in the operation and maintained he was a smaller player than the prosecution alleged.

A trial of issue was held yesterday for the court to determin how involved he was in the organisation and running of the operation.

Charley Pattison, prosecuting, said: "Mason is a drug dealer who we believe played a significant part in a county lines operation."

But Max Mills, defending said: "He is not the man who set up this drug network. Data from his personal mobile phone puts him in Gloucester for the first time on April 25.

"Therefore Mason's role is a minor one. He wasn't in Gloucestershire when the burner phone was activated in February for the county lines operation, which contains a message in March sent to multiple numbers 'Fresh batch, Creed is in town - three for 20'."

Mason told the court: "When I arrived at the flat, I was told what to do by a big man who made me feel under pressure.

"I was not a class A drug user but I had to sell these drugs to pay off my debt. He gave me a burner phone and was told I was 'the line'.

"I was told to send out the message, 'Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, Creed is in town - three for 20' which was sent to 66 phone numbers."

Mr Mills pointed out: "There are similarities between the two text messages sent in March and April namely the original one and the Muhammed Ali-inspired one, as they both contain 'three for 20'."

When police raided the flat in Parliament Street in Gloucester that Mason was operating from, he had £512 on him and drugs valued at £9,000 hidden in the kitchen. He also had the 'burn' phone.

He was thought to be 'cuckooing' the flat for the purpose of dealing in Class A drugs.

Ms Pattison added: "The police believe that the drugs line was set up in March this year at the flat and run by 'Creed'.

"It is accepted that Mason did not play a leading role, more of an errand boy, and only did it for three days until he was caught."

The court was shown a number of short videos filmed on Mason's personal phone which the prosecution said appeared to show him 'celebrating' his life with drugs and demonstrating he was not scared or vulnerable.

The court was also told that his phone contained the text of verses highlighting the life of drugs, but Mr Mills said these were not his own lyrics but came from a London group known as '1011'.

Ms Pattison said to Mason: "Clearly you have an interest in words and lyrics and your videos show you have an understanding of drugs.

"You seem to like the lifestyle that class A drugs provides, in the way you have glamorised it."

Mason responded: "It was just a bit of banter. It was a damp tissue being used to simulate drugs being cooked and talcum powder to represent powdered cocaine in the video.

"I was trying to learn the words of 'No Hook' which is why they were on my phone."

Mr Mills said: "Mason had got into a drug debt in London and was told to go to Gloucester to pay it off.

Mason told the court that he had previously lived at Clapham Junction and on the Old Kent Road and had created a debt of over £500 from his cannabis use that he needed to pay off.

He said: "I didn't have an income since I lost my job. I couldn't borrow it from a family member because they couldn't afford it.

"My supplier was getting anxious and was told in April that I had to go to Gloucester to sell drugs to pay off my debt.

"He said things would get worse if I didn't accept and he threatened to harm family members if I didn't go to Gloucester.

"I sold 20 lots of drugs from the flat. I was working my debt off at £100 a day.

"I didn't know anything about the operation before I arrived."

Judge Ian Lawrie QC observed: "Mason is unlikely to influence those above him in the drugs food chain. The videos were presented in a humorous way but it demonstrates a general awareness of drug use."

Mr Mills said: "The name Creed is obviously the name of the person holding the burner phone at the flat.

Judge Lawrie said: "These videos in isolation are neither here or there but in this context it demonstrates that Mason has knowledge for drug preparation.

Mr Mills said: "There is obvious knowledge of how drugs can be cooked, but it's a long way from operating a county lines drugs ring.

"Therefore he cannot have any idea how such an operation works. The prosecution only has evidence that he was at the Gloucester flat for three days, but the operation had been going for a couple of months before he arrived in the city. "

In sentencing Mason, judge Lawrie said: "There has been a dispute as to your role in this operation. I accept you didn't set it up, but were part of it.

"I make it clear that you were not in charge, but you were a significant part of its process and have kept your role in perspective. You clearly have a knowledge of the drug world.

"You are not quite an errand boy, but you made a stupid decision to take part in this operation, probably because of your age.

"I've looked at alternatives to a prison sentence, but county lines is having a significant drain on Gloucestershire."

Mason was sentenced to 27 months in jail and the judge ordered the destruction of the drugs and paraphernalia and imposed a victim surcharge of £170.

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