A TEENAGER who was 'key' in flooding Winsford with drug is now behind bars.

Ryleigh Howard, 18, was sentenced to two and a half years after admitting to selling cocaine and cannabis in the town.

It comes following a police investigation which led to a warrant being carried out at his home on Snowdonia Way in December, during which £16,000 in cash was discovered.

Speaking after the sentencing at Chester Crown on January 19, Detective Constable Chris Forrest, of Northwich CID, said: “I welcome the sentence handed to Howard and I hope it sends a warning to others who are tempted to deal illegal drugs.

“During our enquiries it was clear that Howard was a key player in the supply of cocaine in the Winsford area, flooding the streets with thousands of pounds worth of illegal drugs.

“The evidence against him was damning, leaving him with no option but to plead guilty to all of the charges.

“In addition to his prison sentence, all of the cash found during the warrants has been confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) and will be handed back to the public purse – helping to demonstrate that crime really doesn’t pay.”

Northwich Guardian: Ryleigh HowardRyleigh Howard (Image: Cheshire Police)

The investigation began in September 2023 when police received intelligence about a mobile phone number involved in the sale of illegal drugs.

Further enquiries uncovered CCTV footage which showed Howard buying top-up credit from the Premier Store on Cheviot Square, which he used to send ‘flare’ messages to addicts around Winsford.

Laura Knightly, prosecuting, explained that police conducted a warrant at his home at around 7.30am on December 14.

During the search the phone in question was found, along with £580 in cash, some loose cannabis and a cannabis plant.

A second warrant was then carried out that same day at Howard’s grandfather’s house on Wharton Gardens, where a plastic tub and canvas bag were found containing around £16,000 in cash.

Ms Knightly said when interviewed, Howard admitted he had been dealing since February 2022 but had stopped the previous week.

He said he would buy an ounce of cocaine for £1,000, making a £400 profit each time which he would store at his grandfather’s.

Mr Alun Williams, defending, asked the judge to consider a suspended sentence, given the defendant was just 17 when he began dealing.

“It is an unsophisticated offence,” Mr Williams said.

“There was a relatively small pool of people he had been selling.

“It is quite clear that at the time of the admission, he had a limited understanding of what a serious position he found himself in.

“He promises he will never do anything like this again.”

Mr Williams also noted that Howard has ADHD and OCD, had been subjected to 'significant trauma' in the past, and had fully cooperated with the police and made a prompt guilty plea.

However, judge Patrick Thompson sentenced Howard to two and a half years in a young offenders institution, of which he must serve at least half.

Mr Thompson said: "Those who involve themselves with class A drugs must understand they face significant risks.

“With significant financial gain comes significant risk. That is because of the misery class A drugs cause in this country.

“One would only have to spend a day in this court to see how lives are ruined by those drugs.

"Burglary, anti-social behaviour and robbery all have their roots, usually, in drugs."