During Christmas, decorating the tree becomes the key decision for many households as the right orna ments and lights need to coordinate together. But one drug dealer took a rather unique path to decorate his Christmas tree. The discovery was made by England’s Merseyside Police after it concluded its investigation of a drug trafficking operation. The police discovered photos in the phone of one of the alleged drug dealers, which showed that he had decorated his Christmas tree with £20 notes and drugs.
Along with the drug dealer, the police also arrested eight other people. From them, officials recovered drug parcels that were packed as gifts and kept under the tree. As per the department, they recovered drugs worth £1.3million. Four of them were using Encrochat technology to communicate secretly and evade detection. They used ‘handles’ like MisterBigArms, HumanTender, StunHun and ScarWars. Nine men have been sentenced today (Monday 20 December) to a total of more than 89 years in jail for their part in a conspiracy to supply millions of pounds of drugs.
A year-long investigation called Operation Overboard targeted the organised crime group who worked together to deal the drugs across Merseyside. Detectives discovered four of the defendants were using Encrochat on the dark web in an attempt to hide their criminality, but today they were jailed at Liverpool Crown Court. Offenders in the dock were:
- Sean Burrell, 29 years, of Peacehaven Close, Childwall was sentenced to 13 years and six months for conspiracy to supply a controlled Class A drug, cocaine and diamorphine, conspiracy to supply a controlled Class B drug, cannabis, and conspiracy to produce a controlled Class B drug, cannabis. He went under the Encrochat handle ‘Misterbigarms’. Detectives identified B urrell as supplying in excess of 14.5kg cocaine as well as significant quantities of cannabis.
- James Wright, 36 years, of Brewery Gardens, Gatecare was sentenced to 16 years for conspiracy to supply cocaine and diamorphine, conspiracy to supply cannabis and possessing criminal property. His Encrochat handle ‘Stunhun’ confirmed Wright as supplying more than 17kgs cocaine, 4kgs heroin and 30kgs of cannabis.
- Martin McCoy, 42 years, of Bewey Close in Toxteth was sentenced to 16 months for conspiracy to supply cannabis. He used the Encrochat handle ‘Humantender’ and his sentencing was in relation to supplying at least 1kg of cannabis.
- Thomas O’Brien, 43 years, Finch Lea Drive, Huyton was sentenced to 18 years for conspiracy to supply cocaine and diamorphine, and conspiracy to supply cannabis. His Encrochat handle ‘scarwars’ involved the supply of 12kgs cocaine and 2kgs of heroin. O’Brien’s case went to trial and he was found guilty by a unanimous verdict last month. This was the first trial involving Encro-chat data in Merseyside.
- Michael Joseph, 56 years, of Rock Lane East, Birkenhead was sentenced to eight years and one month for possession cocaine with intent to supply.
- Marvin Porcelli, 47 years, Rathbone Road, Wavertree was sentenced to seven years and six months for conspiracy to supply cocaine and diamorphine, and conspiracy to supply cannabis.
- Steven Sinclair, 54 years, Pilch Lane in Huyton, was sentenced to 10 years for conspiracy to supply cocaine and diamorphine.
- David Conroy, 43 years, Luke Street in Toxteth received eight years for conspiracy to supply diamorphine
- Kieran Meehan, 30 years, of Queens Drive Wavertree was sentenced to seven years for conspiracy to supply diamorphine and cannabis.
Four of the suspects, Sinclair, O’Brien, Conroy and Meehan went to trial but were found guilty by a jury. The other five offenders pleaded guilty. During the investigation detectives seized more than £282,500 of cash, firearms and ammunition and a substantial amount of Class A drugs with a street value of more than £1.3 million. During the operation it became evident that four of the co-conspirators – Sean Burrell, James Wright, Martin McCoy and Thomas O’Brien – had been users of Encrochat devices.
Law enforcement officials in Europe managed to crack the Encrochat service being used by criminals involved in serious and organised crime to carry out their business and an attempt to evade eviction. Also involved in the organised crime group, and sentenced at a previous hearing under this operation, were Thomas Penrith, 34 years, of Meyrick Road, Norris Green, and Andrew Webb, 46 years, of Maple Court, Knowsley Village. Both offenders were each sentenced to 25 years imprisonment at Liverpool Crown Court last month.
Detective Inspector Paul McVeigh said:
Trevor Parry-Jones, defending, said prosecutors had pointed to O’Brien’s possession of Rolex watches, Louboutin footwear and bottles of champagne as being indicative of his prominent role within Merseyside’s drugs trade. But, describing his client as “a man of straw”, Mr Parry-Jones said: “The Rolexes were fake, the Louboutins were fake, and the champagne bottles were from his wedding… he lived in rented accommodation and indeed the cars that he drove were not his, they were rented similarly.”
He said the 43-year-old’s EncroChat messages referred to him being in debt and that any money he may have earned from his connection to the gang was not enough to overcome what he owed. The court heard O’Brien, of Finch Lea Drive in Knotty Ash, was linked to the ScarWars EncroChat account because he had a scar on his face and he mentioned relevant birthdays, postcodes and house numbers within the messages obtained by police.
Detectives placed him as a controlling figure at the top end of a group of drug dealers, suppliers and couriers sentenced over the past week. Judge Anil Murray assessed the network as “ a large, professional, sophisticated, well-planned, well-organised and successful ” operation.