BREAKING LIVERPOOL MERSEYSIDE

Liverpool man latest to be jailed as part of national Operation Venetic

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A man identified through a picture of a block of cheese has become the latest in Merseyside to be jailed in connection with an international operation targeting criminals who used a mobile encryption service to try to evade detection.

Carl Stewart, 39, of Gem Street, Liverpool was sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison at Liverpool Crown Court today (Friday, 21 May). He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, conspiracy to supply heroin, conspiracy to supply MDMA, conspiracy to supply ketamine and transferring criminal property.

Stewart used the handle ‘Toffeeforce’ on encrochat and supplied large amounts of class A and B drugs.

He was identified after sharing an image on his encro device of a block of cheese in the palm of his hand, from which his fingerprints were analysed.

Around 60,000 users of encrochat have been identified worldwide, with about 10,000 of them in the UK – all involved in coordinating and planning the supply and distribution of drugs and weapons, money laundering and other criminal activity. Arrests are continuing across Merseyside as part of the operation.

Detective Inspector Lee Wilkinson said: “Today we have seen another significant sentencing as part of national Operation Venetic, which came about after 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.

“Carl Stewart was involved in supplying large amounts of class A and B drugs, but was caught out by his love of Stilton cheese, after sharing a picture of a block of it in his hand through encrochat. His palm and fingerprints were analysed from this picture and it was established they belonged to Stewart.

“As part of Operation Venetic, Merseyside Police has so far arrested more than 60 people, many of whom have been charged with serious drug trafficking or firearms offences. This year will see a number of these people continuing to appear before the courts, and we welcome each and every one.

“Stewart was handed a substantial sentence of 13 years and six months, and this should serve as a stark warning to anyone involved in this criminality that there are serious consequences.

“Merseyside Police, along with law enforcement agencies across the world, will leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of those people who think they are above the law, and we will continue to target anyone involved in serious organised crime to keep this positive momentum going.”