The time is up for two Liverpool drug dealers after plans to buy £100k watch are stopped by detectives
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Two men from Liverpool are the latest to be jailed in connection with an international operation targeting criminals who used a mobile encryption service to organise serious crime.
Steven Nicholls, 41, of Ibbotson Lane Aigburth, was sentenced to 16 years and eight months in prison at Liverpool Crown Court today (Monday 24 May). He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arsons with intent, conspiracy to supply cocaine, conspiracy to supply heroin, and transferring criminal property.
Dean Deary, 39, of Pinehurst Avenue Anfield, was sentenced to 12 years and eight months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, heroin, ketamine and cannabis.
Nicholls used the handle 'Cubring' on encrochat and led a cocaine and heroin conspiracy which saw him deal directly with drug suppliers and importers across the UK and Europe, while Deary used the handle 'Recoveryman'.
Detectives involved in the case were able to view messages between the pair; identifying that huge amounts of drug money had been put in a safehouse in Everton. Resulting warrants and searches carried out by officers in 2020 recovered more than half a million pounds in cash hidden under floorboards, and five kilos of cocaine with a purity of 82-86%.
A number of messages sent from the encrochat group included pictures of cash and a diamond watch worth over £100,000, which Nicholls was proposing to buy.
Encrochat messages between Nicholls, Deary and their group:
- On April 3,2020, Nicholls received a message: “No lad its all the work money under there lad its in walls under floors the lot theres that much.”
- Nicholls warned him regarding the amount of his money stored in one location: “Lad u got over million quid. Lad don't tell any one nothing ye no ever.”
- A picture message (attached) was sent confirming Nicholls' current running balance of £1,335,500.
- On April 6, Nicholls was talking about his plans for the scale of his drug supply and messaged: ‘Lad I just want few mil then am done’.
- On May 18 another handle said to Nicholls: ‘You are selling industrial amounts of cocaine and driving a 60 k motor’.
- Nicholls sent a picture of a £106,000 Richard Mille Diamond watch to another handle and said: “Gona get her that for Xmas.”
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 brought about another hugely 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. We've already seen dozens jailed as part of Op Venetic, and the clock is now ticking for many others.
“Detectives have been involved in a vast operation to bring Steven Nicholls to justice. The local drug dealer has carried out large-scale drugs operations which will have blighted the lives of many people across Merseyside and beyond. While he may have boasted of his illegally-obtained wealth over encrochat with photos of cash and expensive jewellery, all he'll know have to show for his criminal lifestyle is a long jail sentence and proceedings under the proceeds of crime act.
"As his right-hand man, Deary was using the cover of his vehicle recovery business to transport kilos of Class A drugs and cash. His sentence should serve as a stark warning to anyone who is involved in this type of criminality that there will be serious consequences.
“As part of Operation Venetic, Merseyside Police has so far arrested more than 100 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. For many others wondering if they will be next to get a knock on the door, please be assured that you will.”
“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.”