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21 Apr, 2021 18:51

‘He was the muscle’: Ex-UFC fighter cops huge prison term for moving $41MN of drugs as part of a crew caught with 410lb of cocaine

‘He was the muscle’: Ex-UFC fighter cops huge prison term for moving $41MN of drugs as part of a crew caught with 410lb of cocaine

An ex-UFC powerhouse who worked as a debt enforcer for a drugs gang, using his ring nickname while working with a crew moving the largest ever cocaine haul seized on land in the UK, has copped eight-and-a-half years in prison.

Robbie 'The Bear' Broughton, a 6ft 2in, 252lb heavyweight, helped move around $41 million in cash while also working for other gangs and charging 7.5% in commission, as well as using an encrypted phone with the username NovaBear.

He worked for a pair of brothers, Alan and John Tobin, who until recently spent four years running a business described in court as "criminally sophisticated, highly profitable and well-organized", supplying other gangs across the UK with narcotics.

The Tobins primarily traded in cocaine but also dabbled in heroin, cannabis and ketamine, which was delivered to other gangs across Manchester, West Yorkshire, Cumbria, Humberside, Cornwall and London, expanding to north Wales and Scotland.

Their downfall was brought about when the duo instructed Jamie Simpson, who was under surveillance, to transport around $28mn in cocaine from Kent to Warrington. 

As Simpson made his way down the M6 motorway in August 2018, Cheshire Police Serious and Organized Crime Unit detectives seized the 410lb in cocaine – a British record on land.

Cops pushed for a case that made its way to Liverpool Crown Court after another bust last year, when the suspects' homes were raided.

As reported by the Liverpool Echo, Judge Garrett Byrne, sentencing yesterday, described 38-year-old married father-of-two Broughton as "an enforcer".

"He was the muscle," elaborated the judge. "He collected debts paid and couriered large amounts of money around."

Judge Byrne said character references spoke "very highly" of Broughton, praising his "qualities as a loving, caring family man and friend" who "goes out of his way to help people" and whose famly would miss him while he is in prison.

Defending the former brawler, Anthony Barraclough insisted that Broughton should be sentenced merely as a "money launderer".

"There is no evidence of him grabbing anybody or committing any acts of violence," Barraclough protested. "The fact is, 'Robbie the Bear' is an enormous guy. If he's in the background, he becomes an enforcer.

"He's never used violence since a long time ago and that was battery. There is a great deal of difference between what he could do – there is no grievous bodily harm and so on."

Claiming that Broughton was friends with the Tobins for at least 20 years through gyms such as the legendary Wolfslair MMA Academy in Widnes, Barraclough added: "A lot of people, if they're not as big as him, if they're not as fit as him, they like to associate with Robbie the Bear.

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"They like to watch him on Youtube, in his fights in various parts of the world and say, 'I train with him.'"

Phone contact between Broughton and the other defendants was only "social", Barraclough attested, but Broughton "accepts there came a stage when he wasn't just big Robbie the Bear, with a big heart as all these character references, but he became Robbie the big soft idiot because he allowed himself to get involved with these people.

"I'm afraid that apart from being a good man he's a fool and an idiot, because he went and allowed himself to be dragged into this – possibly for the idea of some financial gain – but now is going to pay for it.

"He was working every hour available in effect through the night as a doorman. He wasn't even every day with these people. He was used when he was needed."

Despite his long sentence, Judge Byrne acknowledged to Broughton: "It does remain a possibility that you were, to some extent at least, taken advantage of."

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Broughton confessed to the cocaine plot, having five previous convictions for nine offences including possessing a bladed article in 2007 and battery in 2009.

29-year-old Simon Leech was given eight years in prison and 51-year-old Brian McQuillan was jailed for six years and four months after both were found to have been involved in the business.

Alan Tobin copped 20 years and John Tobin was handed a sentence of 19 years and eight months.

"It was a business on a national scale which netted you vast sums of money, which fuelled your lavish lifestyles," Judge Byrne told them.

"The money was couriered to various locations and ultimately ended up in Canary Wharf in London, when it was put through various shell companies and professionally laundered."

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