Midlands Gun Dealer Jailed For 26 Years

5th September 2018

Police in the West Midlands have brought down a gang importing blank-firing pistols and converting them into deadly weapons. They have secured a 26 year jail term for the ringleader known as 'Mad Dog'.

NABIS experts worked on the case and gave evidence during the trial at Birmingham Crown Court. 

Carlington Grant, aged 41, from Johnson Street in Wolverhampton, was the head of a firearms supply network which saw harmless handguns brought into the UK from France before being transformed into viable firearms.

Grant and his partner Khianna Lewis (now aged 34) funded the purchase of 43 pistols plus 1,160 blank cartridges from a firm based in Calais before selling them on to criminals in their converted state.

Officers from West Midlands Police Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) launched an investigation on 3 August 2016 when two semi-automatic handguns were recovered during a covert operation in the Black Country.

The guns, handed over in a shoe box in a Kingswinford supermarket car park, were discovered to be converted blank-firers.

The men involved in the transfer were all caught on police surveillance and jailed for a total of 45 years, including Sunny Dhatt - described as a "go-to" man for criminal firearms - who was handed an 18-year sentence.

Serial numbers on the guns led officers to the firm in France - where such firearms can be bought legally - which had despatched them as part of a larger shipment just days earlier to an address in Cornwall.

A painstaking review of thousands of lines of mobile phone data revealed father-of-nine Grant and Lewis made four trips to Cornwall to collect the guns before storing and converting them at a unit on the Black Lake Industrial Estate in West Bromwich.

It's understood Grant passed two converted guns to Sunny Dhatt during a meeting arranged by middleman Jermaine Dornan, from Temple Street in Bilston, before the lethal consignment was intercepted by police.

West Midlands Police officers raided the industrial unit in April last year; a search uncovered two firearms hidden under car bonnets plus a large bag of ammunition in various stages of conversion. Lewis' fingerprints were found on the ammunition packaging.

And in May last year another of Grant's converted pistols was dropped during an armed raid on a carpet shop in Tyburn Road, Erdington.

Grant had tried to remove the serial number but scientists from the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) were able to apply a chemical technique to recover the number which was then matched to an order from France that had been collected by Grant and Lewis.

Both Grant and Dornan were arrested during simultaneous armed police raids on 23 December last year, while Lewis was detained on 16 January at Gatwick Airport following a holiday to Jamaica. A stash of drugs was recovered from Dornan's Bilston flat; he initially claimed it was in preparation for his 30th birthday party but later admitted drug dealing.

At court, Grant said he simply joined Lewis on day trips to Cornwall and believed she was collecting beauty products for an internet business.

But Lewis' defence barrister rubbished his claim saying Grant spent a matter of minutes in Cornwall on each visit and hardly had enough time to buy a Cornish pasty, let alone go to the seaside, and was instead visiting purely to collect the guns.

Following a 21-day trial at Birmingham Crown Court a jury found Grant, Lewis - from Columbus Gardens in Brierley Hill - and 30-year-old Dornan guilty of conspiring to sell prohibited weapons and ammunition.

And today (5 September) they were jailed for 26 years, 17 years and eight years respectively in relation to the firearms offences. Dornan also received a 12 month sentence for possession with intent to supply cannabis. This will run consecutive to the eight year sentence, making a total sentence of nine years imprisonment. Her Honour Judge Heidi Kubik QC presided over the sentencing hearing at Birmingham Crown Court.  

ROCU Detective Constable Rory Juss said: "Grant and Lewis paid £7,370 for 43 blank-firing guns and 1160 blank-firing cartridges - in their converted state they would have been worth up to £150,000 on the black market.

"They used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle of luxury cars and regular trips abroad - but their lethal business came crashing down after we intercepted two of their converted pistols.

"They went to significant lengths to mask their movements and dealings: Lewis bought the guns using a bank account in her mother's name, they rented hire cars and used 'burner' phones to hide their criminality.

"However, through some exhaustive investigative work we managed to trace the importation of the guns, track Grant and Lewis to the Cornish collection point, found their conversion unit and recovered some of the guns.

"This is a fantastic result not just for West Midlands Police but for the communities we serve: taking someone like Mr Grant off the streets has stopped a significant supply line of guns destined for criminals operating in the West Midlands and beyond."

Blank-firing pistols are legal to buy and sell on the continent but banned in the UK due to tighter firearms legislation. The court heard that only three of the 43 blank firers bought from the contact in Cornwall have been recovered by police. One turned up at an armed robbery in Erdington, Birmingham, in May 2017.

And Det Con Juss, added: "The firm in Calais abdicated any responsibility for selling firearms to overseas customers, instead putting the onus on the customer to ensure they are acting in accordance with firearms legislation in their own country. However, ignorance is no defence and so buying these guns online can have serious consequences for unwitting consumers including arrest, a criminal record, imprisonment and or a fine."

Experts from NABIS - which assists UK police forces with gun crime investigations - worked on the case. Chief Scientist Martin Parker, said: "One of our experts gave evidence during this court case and we are aware of the conversion method used in relation to the firearms and ammunition. We will be notifying West Midlands Police of any future recoveries."

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