A PROLIFIC drug dealer who took over a vulnerable person’s home as a base to sell crack and heroin has been jailed for more than four years.

Police raided a property in Barley Court, Wivenhoe, in April, and found Armani Wilkin inside with a string of drug users and a 16-year-old boy.

They uncovered 251 wraps of crack and 81 of heroin thought to be worth a total of more than £3,000.

Wilkin, 23, had a key to the property and police believed it had been cuckooed - a term used when dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person to sell drugs.

This was the third time Wilkin had been arrested for dealing drugs.

He was stopped while driving a Ford Focus in Braintree in July last year and found with 29 wraps of class A drugs and more than £1,200 in cash.

His passenger, a 17-year-old boy, was caught with a flick knife.

The previous year he was stopped in a Vauxhall Corsa in Chatham, Kent, and found to have drugs in his car and his boxer shorts.

On the first two occasions, Wilkin, of Tramway Avenue, London, was released under investigation by police.

At Chelmsford Crown Court Judge David Turner QC said it was “shameful and baffling” that it took so long to bring charges against him.

He sentenced the father-of-one to four-and-a-half years in jail after he admitted a string of class A dealing offences and possession of criminal property.

“Drugs wreck people’s lives, they lead to grave addiction, they fund crime and they break up families,” he said.

“You knew exactly what you were doing and it pains me that for a while you are going to be an absent figure in your little boy’s life.

“I have no idea why charges were not brought earlier and he was able to run around free as a bird and reoffend.”

Gavin Burrell, mitigating for Armani, said he began dealing to pay off a modest debt of £700 but quickly saw things spiral out of control which saw him bring drugs from Tottenham in north London to the smaller towns.

“This is not slavery or duress but it is getting to the stage where there is pressure on him from above and he is not dealing with it properly,” he said.