Five drug dealers have been jailed for their roles in the wholesale supply of cocaine across Kent. The men were all part of an organised network of criminals who bought and sold Class A drugs in vast volumes and whose crimes were facilitated by the encrypted phone platform, ‘EncroChat’.
Their supply chain was dismantled when their method to secretly send messages was infiltrated by police in France and the Netherlands in 2020, before the National Crime Agency provided this data to the relevant authorities.
This led detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate to establish that between March and June 2020, William Ferguson repeatedly purchased kilogram blocks of cocaine, as part of a conspiracy with other EncroChat users.
Ferguson would then sell the drugs to other users at a profit, assisted by Aaron Duff who acted as a driver, collecting and delivering supplies in bulk quantities.
The EncroChat data showed Nathaniel Green was another user, who made purchases from Ferguson. Green worked with an associate, Billy Robinson, to transport cocaine to others in the chain.
On 17 July 2020, a search warrant was executed at the home of Green, 36, in Settington Avenue, Chatham, where officers discovered bundles of cash in a supermarket bag as well as in several envelopes with names on.
In total £34,425 was seized, along with cannabis supplies and an air weapon. Knuckle dusters and a knife were recovered from two cars parked outside.
The home of Robinson, 37, of Wordsworth Close, Chatham was also searched, where a further £2,690 was seized along with a bank note counting machine.
In May 2021, the investigation then led to the arrests of Ferguson, 27, of Woodland Road, Tunbridge Wells and Duff, 29, of Penns Yard, Pembury.
Drugs processing factory
A fifth defendant, Ged Shone-Porter, 26, was identified in EncroChat communications as someone who would adulterate the blocks of cocaine with cutting agents and then re-press them into new kilogram blocks.
The investigation linked Shone-Porter to an address in Marlowe Close, Maldon, Essex and on 18 August 2021 he was stopped by police as he was walking nearby.
When questioned he replied: ‘You probably wanna get your bin bags ready if you’re coming here mate.’
Officers entered the property and found it was being used as a drugs processing factory, spread across the utility room and garage.
They discovered a press, at least 12 kilograms of cocaine – most of which had been compacted into separate kilogram blocks and stamped with logos – as well as mixing bowls, cutting agents and other drugs paraphernalia.
More than £14,000 in cash was also seized as well as three kilograms of cannabis.
All five men were charged in connection with drugs supply offences and remanded in custody. At Maidstone Crown Court they pleaded guilty and were sentenced as follows:
Ferguson pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to supply drugs – namely cocaine, amphetamine and cannabis. He also admitted a charge of acquiring criminal property. A further charge of conspiracy to import cocaine was ordered by the court to lie on file. On Wednesday 19 January 2022, he was sentenced to 13 years and six months’ imprisonment.
Duff pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to supply drugs – namely cocaine, amphetamine and cannabis. He also admitted acquiring criminal property, and an additional charge of possessing cocaine with intent to supply. He was sentenced to eight years.
Shone-Porter pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, conspiracy to supply cannabis and with possession of criminal property. A charge of conspiracy to supply heroin will lie on file. He was sentenced to 10 years and 10 months.
Green and Robinson were sentenced on Thursday 20 January.
Green pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to supply drugs – namely cocaine, amphetamine and cannabis.
Further charges relating to the possession of cannabis with intent to supply and possession of criminal property will lie on file. He was sentenced to 10 years and three months.
Robinson admitted a charge of conspiracy to supply cocaine. Further counts of conspiracy to supply cannabis and amphetamine, possession with intent to supply cocaine and possession of criminal property will lie on file. He received six years and nine months’ imprisonment.
Clandestine networks dismantled
Detective Superintendent Lee Morton of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: ‘Ferguson and Green, in particular, used EncroChat to communicate with a network of distributors and other suppliers on a commercial scale. They sourced wholesale quantities of cocaine before selling them to other EncroChat users. ‘Our evidence shows that in the period covered by the charges, Ferguson received 18 kilograms of cocaine and redistributed at least 15 kilograms. He would typically make a profit of around £500 to £1,000 on each kilogram sold. The evidence also strongly indicates Green was involved in the supply and transportation of at least 14 kilograms of cocaine. ‘Many criminals have used EncroChat phones to facilitate their criminality, believing the technology would protect them and allow them to operate more freely, but as these sentences show there are always ways to infiltrate these clandestine networks and ensure those involved receive the justice they deserve.’