A TEENAGER described as the "kingpin" of Edinburgh's cocaine pushers has been locked up along with his drug-dealing father.
Police today hailed the operation that saw 19-year-old Mark Richardson and his dad, also called Mark, imprisoned for a total of seven years and four months.
During a series of dawn raids in June officers found 30,000 of cash and cocaine with an estimated street value of 112,000 at two homes in the Inch.
Police intelligence identified Richardson junior, a former youth footballer with Hibs and Dunfermline Athletic, as the "principal" cocaine dealer in Edinburgh at the time of the raids. A third man, Richard Bonner, 42, who allowed his home to be used as a safe house for cocaine, was jailed for three years. The dad-of-five claimed he only got involved in the deal in a bid to clear his eldest son's drug debts.
DC Alan Bow, who led the raid on the Cumnor Crescent home of Richardson senior, 41, said the convictions sent out a serious message to the city's drug dealers.
He said: "We received a lot of intelligence about the activities of Richardson junior along with a number of other suspected dealers that led to June's operation.
"Richardson junior was not in at the highest level, such as importing the drugs, but in terms of drug dealing he was the principal dealer for distributing cocaine in Edinburgh.
"At the time of this raid he was the kingpin for cocaine and it was fantastic for all the officers involved that the raids went so well. I think the sentences send out a message that drug dealing will not be tolerated."
The exact relationship between Richardson senior and junior in terms of distributing the drugs is unclear but in the High Court yesterday, judge Lord Kinclaven described Richardson senior as "the major player" in the case.
Richardson senior's defence advocate John Hamilton told the court how his client had been seriously ill after a brain haemorrhage in March last year, had fallen into debt, and turned to drug trafficking to try to ease his cash problems.
Mr Hamilton added that his cocaine dealing was not at the highest level, but was more like a "small one-shop business".
The court was told Richardson junior had been drawn into the scheme after finding it difficult to go against his father's wishes.
A search of Richardson senior's home uncovered around 12,000 worth of cocaine and around 31,000 in sterling and euros.
DC Bow said Bonner's involvement only came to light after the raids on Richardson senior's home. Bonner is thought to have rented his Rutherford Drive home from the Richardsons and it was there that police discovered about 100,000 worth of cocaine.
The June 30 operation which snared the Richardsons and Bonner saw more than 100 officers swoop on addresses in Gilmerton, Ferniehill and Liberton. The Evening News accompanied the police in the early morning crackdown.
Richardson senior pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of cocaine between March 15 last year and June 30. He was jailed for four and a half years.
Self-employed groundsman Richardson junior admitted a similar charge, but only for a period of one week around the time of the raids. He was sentenced to 32 months' detention in a young offenders' institution.
Labourer Bonner pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of cocaine on June 30 only.