Birmingham drug dealer Paul Russell
A violent Birmingham drug dealer forced a 'vulnerable' man into selling heroin and crack cocaine for him - and then tried to blackmail his family into paying for his release.
Paul Russell, 44, from Herne Close, Ladywood, has now been jailed for nine years after being convicted of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs and blackmail.
Birmingham Crown Court heard how the career criminal had 'recruited' the man - who had mental health issues - in the city centre in August last year by befriending him.
The drug dealer took his victim and his girlfriend to Norwich, where he housed him in a known crack cocaine den, and then forced him to sell heroin and crack cocaine on the streets.
When the man tried to escape after three weeks he was beaten by Russell and then made to call his family in Devon to ask for money to replace a 'stash' of drugs that Russell had accused him of losing.
The family received a number of distraught calls from the victim stating that he was being held against his will and feared for his life.
In September last year the family travelled to Birmingham with the cash.
But before the exchange took place officers from the force's Serious and Organised Crime Unit stopped Russell's Mercedes Benz in Coventry Road, Small Heath, and he was arrested and the victim was recovered.
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Wallis, from the Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: "Russell took advantage of the man's vulnerability. The victim was not from the city and had clear mental health issues.
"Russell took him to Norwich, re-housed him in a crack den, coerced and then forced him to sell drugs. When the victim tried to leave, he was beaten, threatened and made to call his family to plead for cash for his safe release.
"Fortunately the police were able to intercept Russell's journey to Birmingham and arrest him.
"Russell was found to have a huge range of convictions, including assaults and dishonesty offences as well as drug trafficking, for which he has received custodial sentences. I welcome the fact he has now been jailed for nine years.
"Although the man recruited by Russell was a victim in this case, it could not be ignored that he did take part in serious criminal offences, and he was separately charged with supplying Class A drugs, to which he pleaded guilty and was given an 18-month suspended sentence, earlier this year.”