MEN from Northfield and Rubery have been convicted of plotting to arm a Birmingham gang with a gun after police cracked a pin-locked phone to expose the crime.
Jamael Scarlett, 25, from Dordale Close, Northfield, Courtney Farrell, 24, of Grizedale Close, Rubery, Sharif Cousins, 45, of Epping Close, Rubery, and 24-year-old Malachi Thompson, of Cotswold Close, Rubery, intended to put the shotgun into the hands of a prominent gang in the south of the city.
Police targeted the Frankley-based ’61’ gang in 2017 which was behind an increase of serious violence.
On June 6, officers raided an address linked to the group and seized a pellet pistol converted to fire live rounds, an antique .22 single-shot handgun and a sawn-off shotgun.
Leading 61 member Scarlett sought to replenish the gang’s arsenal of weapons and turned to Cousins to source the weapons and Thompson and Farrell to help fund the purchase.
Officers arrested Scarlett – later jailed for 16 years for firearms and drugs offences – and Cousins as part of the wider gangs offensive on July 26, 2017.
Cousins was shot by armed police during the incident with the Independent Office for Police Conduct – the police watchdog – later clearing the officers of any wrongdoing.
His password protected phone was recovered and – though Cousins maintained he was an innocent man – police managed to access the handset and found messages showing he was plotting to supply a shotgun.
Cousins, Scarlett, Farrell – who is serving a nine-year prison term – and Thompson all admitted conspiring to purchase a shotgun between June 5 and July 12. 2017.
At Birmingham Crown Court they were jailed for more than 10 years combined – Cousins was sentenced to three years and nine months and Thompson for two years and nine months.
Scarlett and Farell were each given an extra two years behind bars.
Investigating officer, Det Insp Al Teague, said: “Evidence gathered during the investigation showed Scarlett quickly became determined to re-arm himself and the gang to protect and advance their criminal interests.
“Each defendant played an integral part in the conspiracy. Thompson facilitated Scarlett viewing the shotgun with ‘his people’, while Farrell agreed to pay money towards the shotgun if he could use it.
“And examination of Cousins’ phone showed message exchanges proving he was also complicit in the supply of the gun. He tries to acquire a gun from associates and agrees to travel with Scarlett to view the gun.
“And when Scarlet is arrested for an unrelated matter, Cousins communicates his concerns in messages hoping that Scarlett has wiped his phone because it contained incriminating evidence against him.”
He added the south Birmingham communities were understandably concerned about gang tensions in 2017 but successful operation successfully apprehended a small group of people causing a large amount of fear among the wider public.
The intensive operation targeting those involved in gang activity involved ‘lockdowns’ in key locations with police, armed officers and independent observers on the lookout for suspects and vehicles with links to the groups.
“It worked and, thanks to the arrests and seizures, we saw a significant fall in the number of reported firearms discharges in the areas they operated.
“This should act as a wake-up call to anyone who believes gang life is somehow lucrative or attractive – every day these people run the risk of being sent to prison for a long time, or killed or seriously injured through their own actions.”
Another man was found not guilty of the same charge.