Gang sold £4m of counterfeit drugs made in garages and sheds on dark web

Ten people have been convicted over a business that sold more than £4m worth of counterfeit drugs made in garages and garden sheds on the dark web.

Brian Pitts, 29 - who used the alias "Milkman" online - ran the gang with his girlfriend Katie Harlow, 26, and his father-in-law Lee Lloyd, 47, from their base in Thailand.

Other members of the West Midlands-based group, who were mainly from the same extended family, manufactured the tablets in make-shift pill factories in garages and garden sheds in the UK.

They used industrial pill presses and active ingredients imported from China to produce counterfeit versions of drugs, such as the powerful anti-anxiety tablets such as Xanax.

Prosecutors estimate more than £4m worth of fake medicines were sold on the dark web to people - mainly in the US - who would pay in cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

Pitts and Harlow, from Wednesbury, and Lloyd, of Brierley Hill, were all arrested when they returned from Thailand in August 2019 with designer clothes and Rolex watches in their luggage.

Harlow pleaded guilty to money laundering, while the two men admitted money laundering, Class C drugs, and trade mark offences.

Investigating officer, Detective Inspector Dave Hollies from West Midlands Police said: "The scale of production of these counterfeit tablets ran in the millions. We found evidence the group had purchased over two tonnes of bulking agent, which made up over 90% of the tablets.

"The weight of active ingredients purchased was up 220kg. And the profit in Bitcoin also ran into millions."

The group also included Mark Bayley, 62, and Deborah Bellingham, 57, whose addresses in Wolverhampton and Tipton were used as manufacturing sites, and Anthony Pitts, 40, from Tipton, who fixed the presses.

All three pleaded guilty to Class C drugs and trademark offences, along with Kyle Smith, 25, from Wednesbury, and Scott Tonkinson, 35, from Willenhall.

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Jordan Pitts, 25, from Tipton, and Bladon Roper, 24, from Brierley Hill, were on Wednesday found guilty of assisting in the commission of an offence at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

Jonathan Kelleher, a Crown Prosecution Service specialist prosecutor, said: "This was a case of fake medicines being produced on an industrial scale, with significant potential harm to the public.

"These drugs should only be prescribed by a doctor and anyone buying them on the dark web, produced in a back-garden shed, has no clue what they are taking.

"Brian Pitts and his associates were not concerned with these dangers, and only saw a money-making opportunity.