Cocaine Smugglers that Posed as PC Sellers Jailed

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Several members of an organized crime group (OGC) have been sentenced after police secretly monitored tens of thousands of messages they thought were encrypted, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The bust was part of Operation Venetic, an ongoing UK operation which arose from the takedown by European police of EncroChat – an encrypted comms platform used by criminals.

Read more about EncroChat: EncroChat Bust Leads to 6500 Arrests in Three Years

The group in question imported over 100kg of cocaine to the UK, with some members then selling it on to others, the NCA said.

They apparently went to extreme lengths to hide their activities, such as hiring an industrial unit on behalf of a fictitious computer company. The group even bought stock and had fleece jackets made with the company name on, in order to maintain the cover story.

Separately, some members used a breakdown recovery truck and a window fitting van to ferry cocaine and money around while hiding their activities.

Group leader Craig Gallagher, 36, of Inchape Road, Liverpool, is said to have maintained two EncroChat handles. Officers trawled 40,000 messages to find out more about his plans to smuggle 50–100kg of cocaine twice a week inside computers, the NCA said.

Gallagher had already imported at least 100kg of cocaine – with a street value of around £8m, the agency noted. As well as drugs offenses, he admitted trying to broker the sale of firearms including an AR-15 assault rifle, AK47s, Glock handguns, a Skorpion machine pistol and self-loading pistols.

He received a sentence of 24 years. Two other members of the group – Christopher Van Maren, 41, of Rhodesia Road, Liverpool, and Wesley Campbell, 39, of Castle Green, Warrington – were handed 12-year sentences.

A fourth man was jailed for 30 months last December and the remaining three will be sentenced in September.

“These men formed a very dangerous and damaging criminal organization. They brought in industrial volumes of cocaine that have no doubt contributed to further waves of crime and misery in our communities,” said NCA operations manager, Mike Beigan.

“They didn’t care about other people though, just money. And Craig Gallagher thought nothing of brokering deals to equip serious criminals with deadly weapons, the sort of weapons that have been used with tragic consequences in recent times.”

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