Two dangerous men have been convicted at court after officers from both England and Wales worked together to bring them to justice.
The men were found guilty following a lengthy investigation into their criminality and use of Encrochat devices.
Paul Fontaine, 36 (18.09.85) of Sandgate House, Pembury Road, Hackney and Frankie Sinclair, 34 (01.12.87) of Wyeverne Road, Cardiff were both found guilty on Monday, 14 March at the Old Bailey of:
– Conspiracy to supply and/or transfer a prohibited firearm to another;
– Conspiracy to murder;
– Conspiracy to transfer/acquire/possess ammunition with intent to endanger life;
– Possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life;
– Possessing ammunition with intent to endanger life;
– Possession ammunition when prohibited;
– Possessing a firearm when prohibited;
– Conspiracy to have possession, custody or control of counterfeit currency notes;
– Possession of criminal property.
Shortly after the trial began, Sinclair pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to Supply Class A drugs – cocaine and heroin.
Detective Chief Inspector Driss Hayoukane, from the Met’s Specialist Crime, said: “Two dangerous men have now been convicted, in a case which is testament to the joined up work carried out by police right across England and Wales, without which it never would have succeeded.
“Paul Fontaine and Frankie Sinclair clearly believed that using encrypted devices rendered them untouchable, and sought to commit the most violent of crimes. However, the Met is unceasing in our efforts to target and dismantle the organised criminal networks which seek to blight our streets. Ironically, the steps taken by Sinclair and Fontaine to conceal their conspiracies sealed their fate, presenting us with the very evidence used to convict them.”
The convictions are the result of the Met’s Specialist Crime Unit’s Operation Eternal which launched an 18-month investigation into their criminality. The Encrochat devices for both parties were not recovered, however detectives carried out an extensive review of the Encrochat data and were able to attribute the handles ‘Usualwolf’ device to Fontaine, and the ‘Nudetrain’ device to Sinclair.
The court heard how Fontaine had been a London based professional middleman involved in the supply of drugs, weapons, and counterfeit currency to other criminals. He communicated with them on encrypted phones, using the Encrochat system and went by the handle ‘Usualwolf’.
In this role, he conspired with others to transfer a firearm which was subsequently used in the murder of 29-year-old Abdullahi Mahmoud, who was murdered by Khallid Hogan on 19 March 2020 on Hertford Road in Enfield.
Evidence revealed that Fontaine had a picture of Hogan following his arrest on his phone and had contact with another person believed to have arranged the disposal of the vehicle involved in the murder. Notably his Encrochat phone ceased activity on the 20 March 2020 – the day after the murder, and was not then used for seven days.
The first Encrochat messages retrieved related to Fontaine trying to obtain another firearm.
Frankie Sinclair who was based in Cardiff used the Encrochat handle ‘Nudetrain’. He was deeply involved in supplying Class A drugs in Cardiff. The court heard that Sinclair was involved in a violent dispute with a rival organised criminal gang.
Sinclair messaged Fontaine over Encrochat about his plans and also sent an image of a combat knife in a sheath, which was later recovered by police at his mother’s address.
These events culminated in a shooting at the home address of Sinclair’s mother in Cardiff on 31 March 2020 whilst Sinclair was present with an associate. This was a key event which triggered the conspiracy to murder a 34-year-old man and others. Sinclair believed them responsible for the shooting and went on to seek retribution. Sinclair discussed having CCTV of the shooting at his mother’s address on his mobile phone and this was later recovered by police. It showed three individuals with a shotgun, handgun and crossbow attacking the property.
Sinclair sought the assistance of Fontaine who then conspired together to murder the 34-year-old victim between 30 March and 8 June 2020.
Sinclair sought Fontaine to transfer handguns, ammunition, and provide manpower in order to carry out the planned murder. This included Sinclair naming the victim and stating he knew their locations via Encrochat messaging.
Detectives were then able to evidence Encrochat messaging, between Fontaine and another Encrochat user, ‘Chestbridge’ (an unknown third party) – openly discussing with others about hiring hitmen to assist him in getting revenge.
Fontaine messaged ‘Chestbridge’ “He want them to duppy” with evidence given that this means to kill someone, to which ‘Chestbridge’ responded “30k per body”, “All in”, “Or you provide the tools.”, “20 k”. Expert evidence stated this referred to costing £30,000 and these individuals would bring their own firearms, but £20,000 if these were supplied to them.
Evidence revealed Sinclair, who was unable to immediately secure a firearm through Fontaine, sourced a Walther PKK handgun from another party between 31 March and 1 April 2020, referring to it as a “james bond ting”. However, lacking enough ammunition to carry out his intended attacks Sinclair twice sourced further quantities of ammunition from Fontaine, but both these lots were of the incorrect size.
Fontaine then facilitated Sinclair obtaining a Colt Revolver and ammunition from the Newcastle area on 6 April 2020 from other Encrochat users, in order to seek revenge. Sinclair sent a courier to collect the firearm under the false pretence he was just collecting money.
Separate to this, Fontaine was involved in a conspiracy to supply a kilo of heroin, though this deal ultimately fell through with the recipients sourcing this elsewhere. He also conspired to have £50,000 in counterfeit £20 notes produced for ‘Chestbridge’.
Sinclair was shown to be involved in conspiring to supply cocaine and heroin with discussion and prices for kilo quantities being provided.
Paul Fontaine was arrested in Hackney on 28 October 2020 and Frankie Sinclair was arrested in Cardiff by officers from South Wales Police on 24 November 2020.
DCI Hayoukane added: “I want to pay particular attention to Detective Constable Dave Leitner for his outstanding work in bringing these two men to justice. Without his tenacity, dedication and hard work it is likely that they may have escaped full justice.
“They both now face long prison sentences, during which I hope they reflect upon their choices.”
Detective Sergeant Paula Eveleigh-Williams, from South Wales Police, said: “Frankie Sinclair is a violent and dangerous individual who has long history of criminality and drug dealing in Cardiff.
“He thought he was above the law and that by using encrypted devices he would be untouchable.
“But he was wrong and, as a result of collaborative working between the South Wales Police Major Crime Investigations Team and the Metropolitan Police, he has been convicted of these serious violent offences.
“The use of firearms in South Wales is extremely rare and when it does happen, as Frankie Sinclair has found out, we are determined to go after those involved.”
Both men will be sentenced on Friday, 27 May at the same court.