Organised crime partnership (Encrochat) Operation Venetic

On 26 November 2021, two men were jailed for firearms offences and a drugs conspiracy. Officers on patrol in Huyton in January this year stopped a Range Rover Evoque being driven by Andrew Webb at the junction of Roby Road and Pilch Lane East. As an officer attempted to search Webb he assaulted the officer and made off on foot. A search was carried out of the surrounding area and half a kilogram of Heroin was recovered by Police. Enquiries revealed that a Range Rover Vogue, registered to Thomas Penrith, had been seen in the nearby area. A short time later the car was seen in Shop Road in Knowsley and Webb and Penrith were seen standing next to it. Both men were arrested. A search was also carried out at a property on Shop Road. Within the property an open suitcase was found with three firearms, a large quantity of drugs and a large quantity of cash. A further firearm was recovered from within Webb’s home address.

Webb and Penrith

Webb and Penrith were both arrested. Following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court Andrew Webb, 46, of Shop Road, Knowsley, was found guilty of possession of a section 5 firearm with intent to endanger life x 4, possession of section 1 ammunition with intent to endanger life, possession of Cannabis with intent to supply. He also plead guilty to conspiracy to supply Heroin. He was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. Thomas Penrith, 34, of Meyrick Road, Croxteth, was found guilty of possession of a section 5 firearm with intent to endanger life x 3. He also plead guilty to conspiracy to supply Heroin.

He was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment.

Detective Inspector Alyson Keenan said: “What started out as a routine stop search of a car culminated in the recovery of firearms and a significant quantity of drugs and cash. “Webb attempted to make off from officers when he was stopped but was tracked down very quickly and arrested alongside Penrith. “We believe we’ve disrupted a significant drugs supply line and removed potential lethal firearms, which could be used to cause fear and intimidation, from the streets of Merseyside. A police operation that was led by Merseyside Organised Crime Partnership – a specialist unit comprising National Crime Agency and Merseyside Police officers to tackle O.C.G/s The unit was set up in April to tackle high risk OCGs bringing drugs and firearms into the region. The partnership has been busy in that period seizing at least four firearms, £750,000 of criminal cash, 104 kilos of cocaine, 13 kilos of heroin and 63 kilos of cannabis.

Shotgun Paul

A gunman who once shot himself in the foot has been jailed for four years – as a specialist crime team marks six months of successes. Paul of Glen Way, Tower Hill, Kirkby, Liverpool, left prison where he’d been recalled after being arrested over a firearms discharge. He has been linked to multiple firearms discharges and supplies in recent years. He also has convictions for burglary and trying to stab another inmate in jail. While – well known by organised crime groups (OCGs) across Merseyside

Paul was immediately on the OCP’s radar when he left prison and officers knew he was planning to acquire a gun. On 2 September he was watched by OCP officers take possession of a sawn-off shotgun in Knotty Ash. While entered a property on East Prescot Road in Knotty Ash, Liverpool, and officers moved in to arrest him. While – who in December 2007 blasted himself in the foot with a sawn-off shotgun as he tried to threaten a rival – ran from the house and threw a bag containing the shotgun over a fence into a neighbouring garden and smashed his phone on the ground. On Friday afternoon, at Liverpool Crown Court he was jailed after admitting possessing a shotgun when prohibited for life; possessing a shotgun without a certificate and possessing prohibited ammunition. The judge said he had been involved in crime for the majority of his life.


Organised Crime Partnership

While’s jailing comes as the O.C.P marks just over six months since it was launched. The unit was set up in April to tackle high risk OCGs bringing drugs and firearms into the region. The partnership has been busy in that period seizing at least four firearms, £750,000 of criminal cash, 104 kilos of cocaine, 13 kilos of heroin and 63 kilos of cannabis. At the end of October Simon Roberts, 57, of Greasby, was jailed for 10-and-a-half years for conspiring to supply heroin, cocaine and money laundering. In May, drug dealer Stephen Taylor, 33, of Cronton, Widnes, was sentenced to nearly 13 years in an investigation which emerged from Operation Venetic – the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of encrypted comms platform EncroChat. Another man currently awaits sentencing for conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin, while in recent weeks a man from Wallasey and a man from Knotty Ash were charged with conspiring to supply heroin, cocaine and cannabis.

There are also two other drugs prosecutions in the judicial system after OCP investigations and in a separate inquiry, a man was jailed for five years after admitting possession of a prohibited firearm and possession of ammunition. Detective Chief Inspector Paul Lamb said: “The OCP’s core mission is to protect the public and protect Merseyside from organised crime groups and offenders such as Paul While trying to blight it with their lethal commodities. “Drugs and firearms so often go hand in hand and cause misery and chaos. “It has been a very busy start for the OCP with some significant successes but we are determined to do more.” National Crime Agency senior manager Mick Maloney, said: “Merseyside Police and the NCA together are a very strong partnership. “The work we have done so far should serve as a warning to criminals across Merseyside that we are pursuing you and there is no end to our determination to bring you to justice.”

Drug lab boss jailed

A DRUG dealer who manufactured and distributed class A substances from the garage of his home has been jailed for nearly 13 years. Stephen Taylor, from Widnes, was handed 12 years and eight months behind bars at Liverpool Crown Court yesterday, Wednesday. The 33-year-old had previously admitted conspiracy to supply class A and B drugs, as well as conspiracy to conceal criminal property. His conviction followed an investigation by the Merseyside Organised Crime Partnership, a joint scheme between the National Crime Agency and Merseyside Police, which led to officers raiding the drugs laboratory at his home on Norlands Park in Cronton.

Taylor told police officers “anyone who’s had those Encros is f***ing going” as they raided his home and uncovered a secret room that was used to prepare cocaine and heroin. Analysis of messages sent via the hacked EncroChat network had led the National Crime Agency-backed Operation Venetic to the home of Stephen Taylor, 33, on Norlands Park in Widnes on April 9. Investigators discovered a carrier bag of cocaine and heroin in the living room, in addition to the hidden room, which was attached to the garage and contained a hydraulic press that matched one in decrypted pictures sent by EncroChat user Taylor under the alias “Vilecrusher”, between March and June 2020. Charles Lander, prosecuting today at Liverpool Crown Court, said Taylor had clearly been using the press and other equipment to compress the drugs into blocks after they had been mixed with cutting agents so they could generate more cash. In Taylor’s living room, police found a carrier bag of drugs, namely two blocks of cocaine weighing 124g and 109g, with “import quality” high-purity of 76-77%, plus 59g of heroin, with a purity of 26%.

The total estimated value of the cocaine was between £9,320 and £23,300, and the heroin was £2,240 and £3,360. Describing how Venetic traced Taylor, Mr Lander said: “The police were able to access the messages of an encrypted phone used by an individual with the handle ‘Vilecrusher’. “As a result of analysing those messages and the personal information contained within them, the police were able to attribute the ‘Vilecrusher’ handle to the defendant and to demonstrate that he was involved in conspiracies to supply cocaine, diamorphine (heroin) and cannabis. A tick list was found, suggesting Taylor’s involvement in kilo sales, and Mr Lander said it was agreed by the defence that Taylor had been involved in supplying at least around between 25kg and 30kg of cocaine.


Nikki Holland, NCA Director of Investigations, said: “We are really proud to be working with Merseyside Police in this joint venture to protect the public. “It is a very exciting new chapter for both regional and UK law enforcement. “The NCA has seen significant success in disrupting the top tiers of organised crime; seizing their assets and shutting down their operations. “In the last year alone we have seized more than 100 tonnes of cocaine – worth millions to organised criminals, who sit behind the scenes and collect the profits. “This partnership with Merseyside police will be the third organised crime partnership the NCA has jointly led, and we will no doubt see the same level of success against organised criminals. “Along with other port cities and big urban conurbations, Merseyside is a location that has historically been targeted by criminals importing and supplying drugs and weapons. “The OCP will build on the work of Merseyside Police and North West Regional Organised Crime Unit to intercept those routes and shut down county lines, removing the ability of offenders to bring harm to the streets of Merseyside.”

Essex Encrochat

Two members of an organised crime group selling cocaine in Essex have been jailed for 18 years. Scott Russo and Jack Tilbury, both from Essex, were arrested in December last year after an investigation by the joint National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police Service Organised Crime Partnership (OCP). Officers used data from Operation Venetic, the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of the Encrochat platform, to uncover their discussions of buying, collecting and selling cocaine. Russo, 31, used the handle ‘sizeablehunter’ and bought a van with Tilbury which contained a hidden compartment to hold up to 30 kilos of cocaine. Messages showed Tilbury, 26, known as Tubbs, was sent to collect eight kilos of cocaine from a lorry parked in a layby in Snodland, Kent on 11 June 2020. After this, the pair started to deal cocaine more regularly in the local area and in larger amounts. OCP officers arrested Tilbury at his home in Essex on 2 December 2020. Two kilos of cocaine were found underneath a cot in Tilbury’s bedroom, alongside smaller amounts prepared for sale, scales and plastic bags.

Russo went on the run but was tracked down and arrested at a hotel in Southend on 10 December. He was found with more than £2,000 in cash. On 19 November, Russo and Tilbury pleaded guilty to drug offences at Basildon Crown Court. They were sentenced to 9.5 years and 8.5 years respectively today (26 November). Andrew Tickner from the Organised Crime Partnership said: “This investigation has resulted in a crime group supplying significant amounts of class A drugs to the streets of Essex has been wiped out. “If this criminal enterprise had continued, Russo and Tilbury would have been generating vast profits which would have been used to further fund their criminality. “This is yet another example of the NCA and Met Police working together to protect the public.”

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