One of the UK’s most wanted men has been jailed for his role in the supply of drugs and firearms in Cheshire.
Dean Garforth, who was on the run for two years, has today (Thursday 25 January), been sentenced to 19 years and six months in prison at Chester Crown Court.
The 31-year-old, whose last known address was Regency Park, Widnes, operated at the top of the chain and used the EncroChat communications network to discuss with other criminals the supply of substantial amounts of Class A and Class B drugs.
Detectives from the Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) began building a case against Garforth in April 2020, monitoring and analysing the messages he was sending under the handle ‘Slickcliff’.
On Sunday 24 May 2020, a white Ford Transit Van failed to stop for officers on Bradley Way, Widnes. A police pursuit and a search of the area ensued, and the vehicle was located parked and secure on Norlands Park, Widnes.
A mobile phone forensically linked to Garforth was recovered following a search of the vehicle.
The device was later found to be used by Garforth to send messages through the now defunct encrypted comms platform EncroChat.
From March 2020 and July 2020, Garforth spoke to his associates about receiving and arranging for multiple deliveries of cocaine, cannabis, firearms, and ammunition in and around the North West of England.
On Thursday 27 October 2020, a warrant was executed at Garforth’s home address.
It was then established that he had fled the country to Spain and was actively evading arrest.
Over the next two years, officers spent hundreds of hours searching for Garforth, working closely with their law enforcement colleagues in Spain.
A public appeal to trace Garforth was also issued in January 2022, when the NCA and Crimestoppers launched a new Most Wanted campaign featuring 12 fugitives who were believed to be hiding in Spain.
On Monday 24 October 2022, Garforth was riding an e-bike on a street in Nueva Andalucia, Marbella, when he was arrested in a pre-planned operation.
When he realised plain-clothed officers were closing in, Garforth, who was wearing sports clothes, sunglasses, and a cap, rode the bike into an officer and resisted arrest.
He was located and arrested after an operation by the National Crime Agency, Spanish National Police, and Cheshire Police.
Garforth was subsequently extradited from Spain to the UK on Tuesday 14 March 2023 . On his return, he was charged with conspiracy to supply cocaine, conspiracy to supply cannabis, and conspiracy to supply weapons and ammunition.
Following the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Nick Henderson, of Cheshire Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: “Garforth, like many criminals, believed EncroChat would always be a safe and secure service to message freely and openly without being detected.
“Unbeknown to him, our detectives were watching – gathering evidence of his involvement in an organised crime group that sold and distributed significant quantities of Class A and B drugs.
“The encrypted device was previously perceived as being an untouchable way of communicating freely about criminality without being detected by police. Once it was cracked by law enforcement, it meant those using it would find it almost impossible to deny their involvement in serious and organised crime.
“Garforth also discussed where his OCG had hidden deadly weapons, with instructions on how to find them. These included semi-automatic assault rifles and pistols.
“Across our borders, we have witnessed the utter devastation and destruction that these firearms can bring, and I am overjoyed that another dangerous individual, who possessed and transferred guns in our county, is now facing severe consequences.
“This has been an extremely thorough and complex investigation, involving multiple partner agencies, but thanks to the work of our detectives who the analysed the messages, and an operation undertaken by law enforcement to have him extradited to the UK, Garforth is finally behind bars where he belongs.”