HUNDREDS of ecstasy tablets and more than £24,000 in cash were found at the Rugby home of a man who got drawn into working for drug-dealers because of debts he had run up.
And Marek Piedel, 35, of Morton Gardens, pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to possessing ecstasy, cannabis and amphetamine with intent to supply them.
Piedel, who also admitted possessing criminal property, was jailed for five years and four months.
Prosecutor Adam Western said that on April 30, during the first Coronavirus lockdown, a Rugby town ranger became suspicious of three men she saw in Clifton Road.
They went into William Street where a white Mitsubishi pulled up and one of the men got in, so the ranger reported what she had seen to the police.
A little later officers saw the Mitsubishi on the Asda store car park, with Piedel driving, Jakub Pawlicki in the front passenger seat and a third man in the rear.
And when they stopped the car and challenged him, Piedel reached under the driver’s seat and produced a bag containing 12 wraps of cannabis weighing around 30 grams and worth £300.
Also under the driver’s seat the officers found 21 foil wraps of amphetamine weighing 11.98 grams, and they seized two phones from Piedel on which there were messages consistent with the supply of both amphetamine and cannabis.
Pawlicki, who was jailed for 12 months at an earlier hearing, had a rucksack on the floor between his legs, and various quantities of the two drugs were found in it.
There was a jar containing 55 grams of amphetamine ‘cut’ with caffeine, a plastic bag containing foil wraps of the same mixture, and 48 grams of it in 36 packages in a plastic tub.
In a separate bag was £174 in cash, a package of four grams of amphetamine, and a box containing 2.8 grams of cannabis.
Piedel had the keys to two addresses on him, and tried to claim he no longer lived at Morton Gardens.
But when they searched it, officers found £23,785 in cash in the wardrobe, another £710 elsewhere in the flat, 564 ecstasy tablets and more amphetamine and cannabis.
Piedel initially claimed the money, which has since been confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act, was an inheritance from his late father.
He then said he had been doing legitimate courier work, but had been threatened by a drugs gang that if he did not help with their illegal trade they would destroy his business.
Charles Crinion, defending, said Piedel, who was of previous good character, was an intelligent man who had made ‘a series of very bad judgements which led to him being out of his depth and in debt to serious criminals.’
Mr Crinion explained that Piedel had had his own business at one stage, but had an accident in a warehouse in 2019 and, unable to work for eight months, he began to smoke cannabis.
“The people he had been buying cannabis off asked him to start selling it, and he agreed because he was in quite heavy debt – and once these people had their grip on him, it was not just cannabis. He was told he would have to help out with other drugs.”
But Mr Crinion, who said Piedel was a very good chess player who hopes in the future to earn a living in European chess leagues, added that in relation to the ecstasy and the cash found at his flat, he was ‘only a custodian for the gang.’
Jailing Piedel, Judge Anthony Potter told him: “I have to deal with you for four offences committed during the course of the first lockdown, when everyone in this country was operating under straitened circumstances.
“People were being told to stay at home to save lives, and you interpreted that by being out dealing drugs. You were part of an ongoing and sophisticated operation.
“You would have been a valuable cog in that operation. You chose to become involved with these people, so the fact that threats were made is of limited mitigation.”