Harrogate dealer jailed for two years after police find town centre ‘drug den’

A former university student from Albania has been jailed for dealing cocaine in Harrogate after being found with over 50 wraps of cocaine and thousands of pounds in cash.

Dritan Lleshaj was jailed for dealing cocaine on Harrogates streets.
Dritan Lleshaj was jailed for dealing cocaine on Harrogates streets.

Rising levels of abuse lead to overhaul to protect Harrogate's lone workersDritan Lleshaj, 49, was under covert police observation when he met up with an “unknown individual” at a restaurant in the town centre, York Crown Court heard.

“(Lleshaj) behaved in a way that suggested a deal had taken place,” said prosecutor Matthew Collins.

He was arrested in the Kings Road area where police initially found three wraps of cocaine on him.

“Two black iPhones were (also) recovered, one of which had three SIM cards,” added Mr Collins.

This is what Harrogate protesters said happened at David Cameron's talk last nightLleshaj, of Spring Mount, Harrogate, was hauled into custody where officers found a further three wraps in his underwear during a strip-search.

Police also seized £419 in cash from Lleshaj who refused to give his address.

However, police traced his address and during a search of the property they found another 49 cocaine wraps and seized cash worth £2,249, as well as a set of weighing scales and another mobile phone.

During questioning, Lleshaj - who has a degree in geography and history from Albania - claimed he was homeless and said he was not a drug user.

Six arrested as police board buses and trains in county-lines drug-dealing crackdownPerhaps more audaciously, he claimed he had found the drug wraps “in the road and didn’t know what they were”.

When police officers confronted him with incontrovertible evidence from the house search, he refused to comment.

Lleshaj, who has a previous conviction for shoplifting, appeared for sentence on Friday after pleading guilty to possessing a Class A drug with intent to supply.

His barrister George Hazel-Owram said the father-of-one was “effectively a man of good character” who hailed from Albania but also held an Italian passport, having lived in Italy for 20 years.

Harrogate is already seeing a business boost from UCI says tourism bossLleshaj, a former warehouse worker, emigrated to the UK following the breakdown of his marriage which led to financial difficulties.

“He decided to come to this country to make a better life for himself,” added Mr Hazel-Owram.

Judge Sean Morris said Lleshaj had tried to make life difficult for police by refusing to reveal where he lived, but after tracing his property what they found was a “drug den”.

“You were clearly making money from supplying cocaine,” added Mr Morris. “Class A drugs are a scourge; all drugs are a scourge and they cause untold damage to society.”

He said that although, barring one minor shoplifting offence, Lleshaj had been a “decent, hard-working man”, an immediate prison sentence was unavoidable.

Jailing Lleshaj for two years and eight months, the judge told him: “It’s very sad to see a person such as yourself reduced to this.”

Lleshaj will serve half of the 32-month sentence behind bars before being released on licence.