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Encrochat messages helped police find £980,000 drug money

Byscarcity news

Mar 23, 2022

Four members of an organised crime group have been jailed after Met officers intercept £1million drug conspiracy.

Four members of a west London organised crime group who arranged drug deals in excess of £1million using encrypted devices have been jailed following a major investigation. Specialist Crime detectives seized more than £980k in cash and 11kg of cocaine as part of the operation.

The four men were sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court on Friday, 18 March as follows:

  • Matthew O’Brien, 32 (12.09.89) of Northdown Close, Ruislip, was sentenced to 15 years and nine months imprisonment.
  • Georgie Norris, 20 (02.06.01) of Burnham Way, Ealing was sentenced to 12 years and eight months imprisonment.
  • Mark Breagan, 38 (17.04.83) of Evergreen Court, Ruislip Road, Ealing was sentenced to 10 years and four months imprisonment.
  • Alfie Whitbread, 21(29.11.00) of Cambridge Road, Ealing, was sentenced to eight years and 10 months imprisonment.

All four pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs at the same court on 18 March.

The court heard that O’Brien, Norris, Breagan and Whitbread acted as members of a sophisticated organised criminal network which operated through the use of encrypted Encrochat devices. 

The conspiracy was split into two parts: a west London group made up of O’Brien, Norris, Breagan, Whitbread and a further male who remains outstanding, and an east London group made up of a three men who, on 24 September 2021, were sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court as follows:

  • Jack Lee, 33 (16.08.88) of Lulworth Road, Weelling, was sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment
  • Gareth Morris, 56 (18.11.65) of Eastview Avenue, Plumstead was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment
  • Lee Willetts, 28(25.01.93) of Pembroke Road, Greenford, was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment

All three pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs at the same court on 24 September 2021.

Initially, the conspiracy started with the west London group supplying cocaine to the east London group where O’Brien, Norris, Breagan, Whitbread would act as associates to arrange the distribution of multiple kilos of cocaine.

On a weekly basis, the west London group were supplying in excess of 10 kilos of cocaine to east London for onwards distribution to east London’s ultimate market in Kent and the south east of England.

Over time, the two groups formed a partnership in which those at the top of the two groups discussed collective importations of cocaine of up to 100 kilos and mutually shared information on importation.

During the course of the investigation police intercepted and acted upon a number of the group of co-conspirators:

On 13 May 2020, Gareth Morris was observed supplying bags to Alfie Whitbread. Found in the bags was £232,595 in cash. 

On 15 May 2020, Lee Willetts was observed leaving his home address in Greenford. He was stopped by police in West Sussex while en route to the Kent customer base. He was found in possession of 11 kilos of cocaine, ranging from 80-87% purity.

On 4 August 2020, O’Brien, Norris, Breagan and Whitbread were arrested at their addresses on suspicion of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. Seized from Mark Breagan’s address was an Encrochat device and approximately £50k in cash.

Specialist crime detectives were able to download material from the encrypted device dating March-June 2020 which evidenced daily chats between the various participants in the conspiracy.

The material consisted of photographs of cocaine stamps, large quantities of cash and messages arranging distribution of cocaine and money laundering.

Detective Inspector Stephen Masterson, from the Met’s Specialist Crime North Unit, said: “These convictions show how seriously the Met is committed to investigating and convicting those involved in the commercial supply of Class A drugs.

“There is no doubt the content of the messages from their Encrochat devices demonstrated the scale of the operation being run by this crime group which has led to such significant sentences.

“The link between drug-dealing and violence is clear and the consequences cause misery in communities across London. We will continue to stop drug suppliers from operating and profiting from their illegal activity, and bring them to justice.”