A former drugs boss is helping young people escape the clutches of County Lines gangs.
John Burton, 49, once masterminded a £1million trafficking operation and spent his ill-gotten gains on fast cars and properties in Spain.
But his empire came crashing down when he was jailed for nine-and-a-half years for the plot, which put cannabis, cocaine and amphetamine on the streets of south Wales and the West Midlands.
John, who grew up in the 1970s and 80s as heroin swept through Liverpool’s housing estates, became a reformed man on his release.
He said: “I chose to be a dealer because I did not want to be an addict. We are trying to get young men to walk away from their mates and that life.”
John, who was known as Juicebomb after ballooning to 16st due to past steroid use, had the businesses and Spanish properties he bought with drug money confiscated by the authorities.
He now runs Inside Connections, a community interest company dedicated to breaking the cycle of reoffending on Merseyside and across the UK.
The ex-crook believes housing and steady employment can help young offenders walk away from the easy cash offered by a new generation of ruthless drugs gangs. He said: “The dirty money that the gangs offer just leads to misery.
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“I know because I have been around all that. Young people offered a few grand or more do not know what they are getting into. And when they do it’s too late. It really is fool’s gold.
“We have been working with young people, giving them a chance to engage in training and employment, and many of those have gone on to full-time jobs.”
Growing up, John predicted he would end up behind bars as he was being raised on an estate blighted by drugs.
He added that his background and that of his colleagues helped them develop a rapport with offenders.
John said: “I always knew growing up I was going to jail – it was just a matter of where and when.
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“This all helps when talking to young men about making big decisions. As soon as they know you have been in prison or care we gain their attention right away.
“If they are 100% sure they want change then we give them that opportunity to do so. Being stuck in a cell for all them years has an impact on you.”
He tries to put young offenders back on the right path. John said: “We guide young men toward the adult life programme, which is all about stability, training and work.
“But we do have strict rules and regulations around what we do, and before we house anyone they must consent to our rules.”
His criminal past does not stop him working with the police either.
John said: “I gave a speech earlier this year at the Merseyside Police HQ. I told them that the last time I saw so many coppers was on the day of my arrest. Fortunately, they got the joke.”
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