A former drug dealer sold heroin and cocaine for more than five years as he pursued a celebrity lifestyle.
Hermen Dange, 28, was locked up but has now turned his life around and started two successful businesses, including Fussy Kitchen, in Wavertree. Herman also spends a lot of time talking to kids in schools and has made it his mission to educate young people about life after school and college.
Hermen was part of a gang called the Manchester Boys, or Manx, which smuggled drugs between Manchester, Southampton and Winchester. The 28-year-old was first involved in drug trafficking when he was 16 and by the age of 22 he was behind bars.
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He told The ECHO: “I was 16 (when he started dealing drugs), everyone was so lost at the time and all we wanted was money – without knowing that we could potentially hurt other people. It wasn’t until I was in court, the prosecution said we were killing or injuring people, I realized what I was doing.
“I can’t speak for other people but I was all about the money, I just wanted a quick buck and I didn’t want to work for it. I saw the celebrity lifestyle and the people go on vacation and that was what I wanted.
“I bought designer clothes and went on vacation, I wasn’t saving the money to do anything. I just wanted the lifestyle.”
The teenager was forced out of the house by his mother when she caught wind of what her son was doing. Hermen said at the time it gave him “more freedom” and meant he was able to hide and “protect” his mother and little sisters from what he was doing.
The scale of Hermen’s crime was discovered when he got into a fight while dealing drugs in Southampton. Police rushed to the scene and arrested Hermen for assault.
Officers questioned why Hermen was in Southampton and when he said he was “working” officers did not believe him and began to investigate. A month later he was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply cocaine, crack and heroin, as well as money laundering.
Hermen said the month before his arrest he and a friend realized how “deep” they were and tried to turn their lives around. The 20-year-old applied for a call center job but, looking back, said it was “too late”.
He said: “I didn’t know there was an operation following me, it was too late and that’s when I was sentenced to six and a half years in prison. remember being taken from court to Strangeways and I’ve been to reception and they tell you what you can expect.
“The officer opened the cell door and that’s when you realize you’re really alone and you’re alone when you walk in there. It’s a really scary place in that regard. .”
Looking back on his time in prison, Hermen said he can understand why people go back to a life of crime due to “the pressure” of what you’re going to do when you’re out.
He said: “You really feel the pressure when people start asking what you’re going to do when you come back. People see you having this lifestyle and all this money and wondering how you’re going to get that back.
“I can see why people go back to it, but I decided while I was in prison that I wanted to use my transferable skills from being in a gang to start my own business.”
Eventually Hermen moved to an open prison at HMP Thorn Cross in Warrington and considered what courses he could study in prison. Upon his release from prison in 2020 after three years, exactly halfway through his sentence, his mother bought him his first van so he could start a moving business.
Once this venture was launched, he then set his sights on starting a street food business called Fussy Kitchen, based in Picton Road. Hermen believed that if he hadn’t started his own business, he would have had a hard time finding work straight out of prison.
Along with having his own businesses in transportation and food, Hermen is now a mentor at youth centers and schools, speaking to the younger generation about “life after high school.” He also hopes to launch a workshop with his business partner for those interested in starting their own legitimate business.
He said: “I have been away for two years now and my goal is not to be rich – but to be successful and help others as much as possible. I have changed the life of a person, who has possibly damaged hundreds of lives (by selling drugs), like I did in the past.
“The way I keep myself alive now is to talk to people.”