A Highland gangland boss who hid drugs valued at thousands of pounds in secret woodland “stash sites” has been jailed for five years and eight months.
Ryan Ferguson was sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow after admitting supplying cocaine, cannabis and benzocaine.
Ferguson, 30, of Inverness, pled guilty at a hearing last month to being involved in serious organised crime between June 2019 and September 2021.
The court heard how Ferguson arranged for the deliveries of controlled drugs and large sums of cash to the north of Scotland.
Crown Office prosecutors told how he then identified a number of rural spots to keep the drugs hidden.
And he ordered members of his gang to use the sites to bury the drugs before planning to sell them on the high street.
The drugs were later valued by police at more than £492,000.
But his illicit scheme unravelled when police intercepted mobile phone conversations on an encrypted EncroChat device during surveillance operations.
Those discussions, involving other gangland figures in the north east of England and Glasgow, revealed the scope and the planning of Ferguson’s operation.
Prosecutors told how he orchestrated the delivery of significant quantities of drugs into the Highlands.
In one exchange, Ferguson was heard arranging a £75,000 payment to a courier as part of a handover of drugs in a factory car park.
And on another occasion, he was heard discussing the price of cocaine with an intermediary.
The hearing was told of a number of seizures police made during their investigations.
In June 2020, a total of £142,098 of high purity cocaine was found hidden under moss in woods in the Highlands.
A further drugs haul worth £350,000 was discovered after two men linked to Ferguson were stopped in separate raids.
The court heard that Ferguson, who has previous convictions for drug-related offences, was released from prison in June 2019.
Within weeks, however, he had returned to a life of crime, despite having been served with a Serious Crime Prevention Order (SCPO) following his previous convictions.
Under the terms of that order, he was allowed only one mobile phone and sim.
During the police investigation, it was determined that Ferguson had used at least 29 mobiles.
He was arrested at Glasgow Airport in June last year after arriving back from a holiday in Thailand with his partner.
Laura Buchan, Procurator Fiscal for Specialist Casework, welcomed the sentence and said it sent out a strong deterrent against those who blight communities in Scotland through drugs trafficking.
She said: “This was a coordinated effort to bring significant quantities of illegal and harmful drugs to the north of Scotland. Ryan Ferguson is now serving a prison sentence as a result of an extensive police operation, with oversight from COPFS, to investigate a network of drug supply.
“We target all who threaten communities across Scotland, from drug couriers to those who direct their movements. With each case of this kind, we reduce the harm drugs have on communities.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Stuart Houston, of Police Scotland, said: “Ferguson was identified as the leading figure in the supply chain bringing drugs into the Highlands.
“He was arrested following an extensive investigation into his activities and we welcome his conviction and sentencing.
“Police Scotland will not allow criminals and organised crime groups to profit from other people’s misery anywhere in the country. This case is a good example of how we utilise our resources along with the expertise of partner agencies to disrupt this kind of activity.
“We are committed, along with our partners involved in the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce, to detecting and disrupting the activities of serious and organised criminals. We aim to make Scotland a hostile and uncomfortable environment for anyone involved in this activity and prevent them from preying on our communities by bringing them to justice.
“Anyone who has information or concerns about the sale and supply of drugs in their community is urged to contact Police Scotland via 101. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”