A Nottinghamshire man, who was part of a conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and buy lethal firearms, has been jailed.
He was a member of a gang which used an encrypted messaging system to fix drug deals worth tens of thousands of pounds.
He thought the EncroChat phone was keeping him under the police radar, but an investigation team at the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) was able to analyse his role and found he had conspired with others to supply large quantities of heroin and cocaine and had made enquiries about the prices of various illegal firearms - making attempts to purchase a Smith and Wesson revolver.
The 34-year-old was arrested in May 2021 and on Tuesday 8 November 2022, at Nottingham Crown Court, he was jailed for 14 years, five months. He had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
EMSOU Detective Inspector Mark Adas said: “I am delighted with the hefty sentence handed down and the clear message it sends out to other organised criminals operating in the area causing misery for communities.
"Our team worked meticulously with other agencies to piece together the timeline of criminal activity to bring about this result.
“The severity of these offences should not be underestimated, and the quantities of drugs we are talking about here are substantial. The fact that this man also conspired to purchase lethal firearms shows his complete disregard for public safety and a real risk of causing harm.
"Criminal gangs thought they were able to avoid detection by using these encrypted devices, but they instead presented us with a treasure trove of evidence that has enabled us to take criminals off our streets and highlight our commitment to removing drugs and weapons from our communities.
“We continue to work relentlessly to crack down on weapon-enabled and drug-related crime and to reduce the availability of firearms and drugs in our neighbourhoods. We treat all such reports with the utmost severity and will always do everything in our power to keep people safe and take action against anyone found to be breaking the law.”
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Operation Venetic was the UK law enforcement response to EncroChat. The encrypted phone network was utilised by organised crime bosses across Europe for years, as it allowed them to communicate secretly, making it difficult to link them to criminal activity. Following the take down of the service by French and Dutch law enforcement, the EMSOU team worked with the National Crime Agency and East Midlands forces to expose major criminality in the region.