A travel agent has been jailed for eight years after using his agency as a “drugs operation base”.

Neil Wheatley, 46, of Tuscan Drive, Lordswood, was a director at First & Business Class Travel in Rochester, Kent.

He also hid cash and drugs inside the airbag compartment of his car, before his arrest in December 2018.

Kent Police detectives seized approximately £60,000 cash, and cocaine with an estimated street value of more than £600,000.

Maidstone Crown Court was told that Wheatley was pulled over by police in Chatham on December 14, 2018.

Officers searched his car and took him into custody after finding a ball of cocaine, cash and three mobile telephones.

They later found a secret compartment, where the passenger airbag should have been, in which there was a large quantity of cocaine and a bundle of banknotes.

Officers also searched three properties linked to him including the office at the agency where he worked in High Street, Rochester – where they found “a significant quantity of cash and drugs hidden inside a wall behind an air vent”, said police.

More than £40,000 had been hidden within the walls of his office.

Evidence was also seized from Wheatley’s home address in Lordswood, as well as at a second property in Mierscourt Road, Rainham, including three blocks of cocaine hidden inside the loft.

Wheatley was charged with possession of criminal property and being concerned in the supply of class A drugs, and pleaded guilty to both offences before his sentencing on Thursday (March 7).

Medway district commander Chief Inspector Rob Marsh said: “All the indications are that Neil Wheatley was one of the leaders of an organised crime group who sold large amounts of crack cocaine on the streets of Kent and beyond.

“Law-abiding people do not usually stuff bundles of cash into walls or airbag compartments so it is no surprise that Wheatley pleaded guilty to the offences he was charged with. He had no choice in the face of such compelling evidence.”

The Mirror reported that Wheatley was a cocaine addict.

Prosecutor Tom Dunn said the travel agency was a legitimate business, set up by Wheatley and two partners, but used by him as “a drugs operation base”, reported the Mirror.

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