Four drug dealers who ran a county lines drug network in Hemel Hempstead have been jailed for more than 29 years.


The four men were arrested in December 2021 following a long running investigation by Hertfordshire Constabulary’s specialist county lines unit, Operation Mantis. The gang ran the county line in the Hemel Hempstead area between May and December 2021, using the homes of several vulnerable people as a base to sell crack cocaine and heroin.


They appeared for sentencing at St Albans Crown Court on Wednesday 6 September, after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing.


  • Tolga Ahmet, aged 23, of Whitethorn Street, London, was sentenced to nine years and one month for conspiracy to supply class A drugs (crack cocaine and heroin)
  • Tyrese Abbas, aged 22, of Buckingham Road, Bletchley, was sentenced to eight years and six months for conspiracy to supply class A drugs (crack cocaine and heroin)
  • David Charles, aged 49, of Oban Street, London, was sentenced to six years and four months for conspiracy to supply class A drugs (crack cocaine and heroin)
  • Joe Naulls-Buttigieg, aged 26, of Eric Street, London, was sentenced to five years and three months for conspiracy to supply class A drugs (crack cocaine and heroin).


Detective Sergeant Chris Cowell, from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Operation Mantis team, said: “This gang ran a major drug supply network in the Hemel area, dealing in crack cocaine and heroin using several ‘cuckooed’ properties as a base for their criminal activities. Successfully dismantling another significant network will have a big impact on drug use and associated crime within Hemel Hempstead and surrounding areas. This will also send a message to anyone involved in drug dealing that we are watching and they will be caught and face long jail terms.

“Exploitation of vulnerable people is just one of the tragic symptoms of organised drug gangs. County lines dealers can coerce people into providing a base for dealers to operate or to act as distributers themselves. They often use young people to handle drugs and money, drawing them deeper into gang affiliation that often leads to violence and abuse.”

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If someone you know has a drug problem, they can get help by contacting Frank on 0800 77 66 00 or visiting Talk to Frank (opens in new window).

What is county lines?

County Lines is the name given to describe drug dealing, which involves criminal networks from urban areas expanding their activities into smaller towns and rural areas.

It often involves the exploitation of children, as gangs use young people and those with mental health or addiction problems to transport drugs and money. These gangs establish a base in the location they are targeting, often taking over the homes of local vulnerable adults by force or coercion in a practice referred to as ‘cuckooing’.

Dealers typically use a single phone line to facilitate the supply of Class A drugs to customers. The phone line is highly valuable and is protected through violence and intimidation.

*What is Operation Mantis?

The Operation Mantis team was launched in 2018 and is made up of officers who specialise in targeting serious and organised crime. Since May 2019 the team has executed hundreds of search warrants, more than 400 arrests and seized over £392,000 in cash. This has led to numerous county lines gangs being dismantled and offenders sentenced to more than 600 years in prison in total.

What is Cuckooing?

Cuckooing is the term used when gangs establish a base in the location they are targeting, often taking over the homes of vulnerable adults by force or coercion.

How to spot the signs that cuckooing might be happening in your neighbourhood:

  • Lots of different people coming and going from an address during the day and at night.
  • Suspicious smells coming from the property.
  • Windows covered or curtains closed all of the time.
  • Cars pulling up to or near to the house for a short period of time.
  • An increase in anti-social behaviour around the property.

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