Irish Olympian Leon Reid has been given a suspended sentence after being found guilty of allowing his flat to be used for criminal activity by a major drugs supplier who was producing crack cocaine.
The 27-year-old sprinter, who competed for Ireland over 200 metres at the Tokyo Olympics and is based in Bath, was one of 18 men charged last year in relation to drugs and firearms offences, all of which he denied.
His involvement in the case traced back to his decision to sub-let his flat to a fellow athlete Romaine Hyman (30) previously of Portland Place, Bath, in the early months of 2020 during a period when Reid was warm-weather training in South Africa.
Reid was today sentenced to 21 months, suspended for 18 months, and 220 hours unpaid work for “allowing his flat to be used by Hyman to produce cocaine and for receiving payment”, which text messages showed amounted to £500 a month.
Reid was found not guilty of concealing criminal property and of three firearms offences, which all related to items seized from his flat in Bath.
Hyman was found guilty of 18 offences in total, and was jailed for 26 years at Bristol Crown Court.
Reid’s agent Derry McVeigh told the Irish Independent: “Leon is pleased that it was acknowledged that he was found not guilty of any charge related to the supply of drugs, possession of a gun and associated paraphernalia and of concealing criminal property.
“The jury did find him guilty of permitting his premises to be used. It was accepted that he rented a house out in good faith but the Crown argued that in the week following his return from South Africa and being prevented from returning to South Africa because of Covid, that he would have become aware his house was being used for criminal activity.
"What that criminal activity was, he didn’t know. The way the judge summed that up was: he landed, he got stranded and he acquiesced.”
Meanwhile two other men – Sheikh Maruf Rouf (35) of no fixed abode, and Jevaughn Rose (28) from St Michaels Avenue in Nottingham – were both given three-year sentences.
According to a release from Avon and Somerset Police, Hyman became a key target in a South West Regional Organised Crime Unit investigation following Operation Venetic, the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of encrypted messaging service EncroChat.
Using the handle ‘Locksmith-rome’, Hyman was said to have operated at the centre of four conspiracies to supply cocaine and heroin from London and the Midlands to the South West and two conspiracies to launder the millions of pounds made from that supply.
Hyman was arrested on May 29, 2020 after receiving a delivery of seven kilo blocks of cocaine from London and taking them to Reid’s Bath flat.
He sent a photo of the Fendi blocks with the words “Landed safe thank you” to his London supplier. That was his final Encro message as five minutes later, as he left the flat, he was arrested.
When officers searched Reid’s flat, they not only found the Fendi cocaine, but also a padlocked suitcase containing a handgun, 25 rounds of ammunition, a silencer, a kit to adapt the weapon to function as a submachine gun, £23,000 stashed in a drawer, a money counter, and equipment Hyman used to cook his crack cocaine.
Detective Inspector Charlotte Tucker from the SW ROCU said: “Hyman was a major supplier of class A drugs into and out of the South West and the images of the piles of cash represent just how much harm that supply will have caused.”
Chief Inspector Steve Kendall, B&NES Neighbourhood and Partnerships Lead for Avon and Somerset Police, said: "Today's sentencings are a culmination of years of intensive investigative work by the SW ROCU and a number of law-enforcement agencies and we welcome the significant jail terms handed down to dangerous and exploitative criminals.
"Our message to anyone involved in the illegal supply of drugs is simple; we will continue to relentlessly pursue you and we will do everything in our power to bring you to justice.”
With Reid’s case pending through 2021, there was considerable doubt whether he would be selected on the Irish team for the Tokyo Olympics. Having won the national 200m title and achieved qualification via his world ranking, he was initially nominated for selection by Athletics Ireland, but the Olympic Federation of Ireland’s selection panel rejected his selection, in line with its policy.
Reid then appealed and the Sports Dispute Solutions Ireland Olympic Tribunal remitted the case to be re-heard, directing that more discretion be shown given the circumstances of Reid's case.
As a result, the Olympic Federation of Ireland selection committee reviewed the matter again and selected Reid.
At the Tokyo Games Reid advanced from his 200m heat after finishing fifth in 20.53 seconds and he finished seventh in his semi-final in 20.54.
At the national championships last June, he said making it to the Games would mean “everything” to him. In Tokyo, Reid said his pending court case was not in his thoughts.
“This has always been the goal for the past 11 years so it doesn’t matter if I get hit by a car or whatever, that’s at the back of my mind now,” he said. “I’m here to focus on the running and I’ll sort that when I get back.”
Reid endured a turbulent childhood, spending time in 14 different foster homes in the English midlands before being adopted, at the age of 11, by a Wexford native. His birth mother hailed from Belfast and struggled with drug addiction for years before passing away in 2016.
He discovered athletics at the age of 15 and quickly showed a huge talent for it, representing Britain at the European Youth Olympics and winning European silver medals over 200m at U-20 and U-23 level.
But after his relationship soured with British Athletics he transferred his allegiance to Ireland, donning the green singlet for the first time at the 2018 European Championships.
His last race was in Belfast last September, after which Reid said he was looking forward to a big year in 2022, with a host of major events on the summer calendar such as the World Championships in Oregon, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the European Championships in Munich.