Couple who set up a secret steroid 'laboratory' in Bognor ordered to pay back more than £1million

A couple already jailed for drugs and money laundering offences in Bognor have now been served with one of the biggest ever court orders following any Sussex Police investigation.

According to Sussex Police, as investigation by its financial crime experts led to confiscation orders being granted on Monday (February 11) against Christopher Young, 56 and Tracy Robinson 52, formerly of Marshall Avenue, Bognor, requiring them to repay a total of £1.31 million.

Police said the pair had set up a secret steroid 'laboratory' and production site at Howards Acre in Hook Lane, Aldingbourne. Picture provided by Sussex Police

Police said the pair had set up a secret steroid 'laboratory' and production site at Howards Acre in Hook Lane, Aldingbourne. Picture provided by Sussex Police

Police said it follows their sentencings in April 2018 for the production of controlled drugs, money laundering and fraud offences after the pair had set up a secret steroid 'laboratory' and production site at Howards Acre in Hook Lane, Aldingbourne. Young was sentenced to a total of nine years imprisonment and Robinson was sentenced to a total of three years imprisonment, police confirmed at the time.

A spokesman said: "Confiscation orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) were granted at Portsmouth Crown Court against Christopher Young and Tracy Robinson, requiring them to repay a total of £1.31 million.

"Young was found to have obtained benefit from his criminal conduct of £1,819,576.42, and the court found his available amount to be £814,861.43 which he was ordered to repay within three months or face a further six years imprisonment.

"Robinson was found to have obtained a benefit from her criminal conduct of £497,963.84 and the court found her available amount to be £497,963.84 which she was ordered to repay within three months, or face a further four and half years imprisonment."

Tracy Robinson. Picture provided by Sussex Police

Tracy Robinson. Picture provided by Sussex Police

Pair could go back to prison

Police said that even if the pair go back to prison, they will still have to pay.

"Out of the amounts confiscated from Young and Robinson, the court ordered that compensation be paid to HMRC, Arun District Council and the Department for Work & Pensions totalling £60,503.10 in respect of money fraudulently obtained in benefits and tax credits," the spokesman added.

"Their assets included two properties in Sussex, a number of motor vehicles, property interests in Bulgaria, cash seized from the home address and the balances of at least 17 bank accounts.

Christopher Young. Picture provided by Sussex Police

Christopher Young. Picture provided by Sussex Police

Police said that on April 27, 2018, Young was sentenced after being convicted of four counts of money laundering a total of £343,382, possessing producing and possessing with intent to supply Class C drugs, and with income support / employment support allowance fraud, tax credit fraud and council tax benefit fraud.

Meanwhile, police said Robinson was convicted of seven counts of money laundering a total of £448,816, possessing and possessing with intent to supply Class C drugs, and with income support/employment support allowance fraud, tax credit fraud and council tax benefit fraud, she was found not guilty of a count of money laundering relating to £30,000 cash.

Intelligence-led investigation

Sussex Police said detectives discovered the controlled drugs with a street value of in excess of £500,000 following a raid on the site in Aldingbourne in May 2017, following an intelligence-led investigation,

The spokesman said: "Police had received several anonymous reports of antisocial behaviour at the site over the past previous six months. Upon arrival police discovered Young inside a laboratory set up to produce steroids in a underground metal 'portacabin' container on the site. But the police interest in the pair did not end when they went to prison.

"Extensive financial investigation proved that Young had since at least February 2007 purchased laboratory equipment, machines, supplies, raw materials, packaging and labelling. The financial records provided evidence that deliveries of the equipment had been received at their home address."

Police said the 'haul of substances' in the laboratory included over 14 litres of injectable steroids, 219,000 steroid tablets, and 214,000 tablets of prescription only medication together with 'dozens of kilos' of raw powders and liquids sufficient for the future production of many more 1,000s of tablets and injectable drugs had police not interrupted the operation.

"Young was believed to have operated for over ten years under the name of ‘Wildcat Research Laboratories’ illegally producing steroids and offering them for sale together with prescription-only medications without any licence or qualifications," the spokesman continued.

"The couple had over the years had regular cash income from the illegal enterprise and amassed assets of approximately £1 million which they had failed to reveal to the authorities from which they claimed means-tested benefits."

When sentencing, Judge William Ashworth said the couple 'clearly had a lavish lifestyle' with the purchase of foreign travel, property and vehicles, according to police.

The spokesman added: "[The judge also said] it was 'clear that Young was the primary operator in terms of the money laundering telling Robinson what to do' she knew what was going on and was happy to live the lifestyle.

"He said that with the “large amounts of money coming in from drug sales the fact that you continued to claim benefits for 10 years would be something that the public would be aghast at”.

'Judge's comments should resonate with criminals'

Detective Inspector Mark O'Brien of the force's Economic Crime Unit said the comments from Judge Ashworth and the sentencing should 'resonate with any individuals involved in a criminal lifestyle'.

He added: "Young and Robinson unlawfully benefited from this criminal lifestyle over several years, risking the health of purchasers of their products. This was a significant confiscation of money and assets which in time will benefit our policing resources, and communities in Sussex through the Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme (ARIS).

"Often criminals believe they are untouchable by the law and act with impunity, occasionally being content to serve a prison sentence if apprehended. The fact that we have seized and now confiscated their assets will impact on and hopefully deter Young and Robinson from following a criminal lifestyle when they eventually leave prison."

Sussex Police confirmed funds seized by the courts through POCA confiscation or cash forfeiture orders go to the central Government exchequer, but a 'proportion of this is returned to law enforcement'.

For information about how confiscation orders work see the CPS website here.