Dutch man jailed for smuggling cocaine, heroin in ambulances

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LONDON (AP) — A Dutch man who set up a fake ambulance company to smuggle huge amounts of heroin and cocaine into Britain was sentenced Friday to 24 years in prison.

Olof Schoon, 38, pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to smuggle drugs with an estimated value of more than 1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion).

He and two accomplices were arrested in June at a parking lot in Smethwick, central England. Police found 10 million pounds ($15 million) worth of cocaine and heroin in secret compartments inside their ambulance.

Detectives say Schoon's International Ambulance Team — a company complete with offices, fake invoices and a fleet of vehicles — had made 44 similar trips from the Netherlands to England in the previous 14 months.

Passing sentence Friday at Birmingham Crown Court, Judge Francis Laird said this was "a highly sophisticated, meticulously planned and well-executed conspiracy involving the importation of Class A drugs on a truly colossal scale."

The accomplices were jailed for 18 and 25 years. The judge said Schoon "set up this conspiracy and you controlled it" and would have received a longer sentence if he had not pleaded guilty.

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