Three men from Warrington and St Helens are the latest to be jailed in connection with an international operation targeting criminals who used a mobile encryption service to try to evade detection.
Mark Dumbell, 30, of Warrington Road Prescot, was sentenced to 16 years in prison at Liverpool Crown Court today (Wednesday 26 May). He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, cannabis and ketamine.
Dumbell used the encrochat handle ‘Bullmouth’ and supplied large quantities of Class A drugs using couriers and specially-adapted vehicles.
Philip Dearden, 31, of Kent Road St Helens, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, heroin and cannabis. He used the encrochat handle ‘LoyalAnimal’.
Dearden – owner of the Bowling Green Pub in St Helens – was identified via a photo he shared using encrochat of his pub following an arson attack, which were seen to be an exact match to CSI photographs. Following the arson, Dearden told police he had no idea who was responsible, but encrochat conversations between him and another handle suggested otherwise.
Shaun Harrison, 33, of South Street, Thatto Heath, was sentenced to 10 years eight months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and cannabis. Harrison used the encrochat handle ‘Scantbee and Sandferret’ and was also attributed after revealing personal details about himself on encrochat.
Around 60,000 users of encrochat have now 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 has seen three more drugs criminals put behind bars 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.
“All three men were responsible for sourcing significant quantities of drugs across Warrington and St Helens – using couriers to move drugs around the region and uploading pictures to highlight the scale of their drugs supply, including a kilo of cocaine on a table, £270,000 cash, two kilos of heroin and four kilos of cannabis.
“While Dearden may have bragged about “liking” the benefits his drug dealing temporarily provided, he’s now facing the inevitable downside of his crimes with a lengthy jail sentence behind bars.
“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.
“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.”