LONDON (AP) – A drug dealer in the English city of Liverpool thought he was the big cheese – until police obtained all the evidence needed to arrest him based on a photo he took shared of himself holding a small block of creamy Stilton.
Carl Stewart, 39, was sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison at Liverpool Crown Court last week after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, conspiracy to supply heroin, MDMA and ketamine and the transfer of criminal property.
If it weren’t for a shared photo of himself holding the block of cheese from well-known British retailer, Marks & Spencer, he might still very well be supplying copious amounts of the medicine.
Stewart was arrested after posting the photo to the EncroChat encrypted messaging service, using his alias “Toffeeforce”. Unbeknownst to him, the service had been hacked by police in Europe. From there, his palm and fingerprints were scanned and the police got their man.
Merseyside Police Detective Inspector Lee Wilkinson said Stewart was “surprised by his love of Stilton cheese”.
Stewart is not the only one to see his criminal activities prematurely interrupted by his activities on EncroChat. Merseyside Police say around 60,000 users have now been identified worldwide, with around 10,000 in the UK alone. All would be involved in the coordination and planning of the supply and distribution of drugs and weapons, money laundering and other criminal activities.
Merseyside Police have arrested more than 60 people as part of Operation Venetic, and three other criminals were sentenced to lengthy prison terms on Wednesday. Three more are to be sentenced on Thursday.
Shaun Harrison, 33, was one of those sentenced to 10 years and eight months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to supply cocaine and cannabis. Harrison was taken aback after revealing personal details about himself on EncroChat, which he went through the “Scantbee and Sandferret” handle on.
“The Merseyside Police, as well as law enforcement agencies around the world, will spare no effort in our pursuit of these people who believe they are above the law, and we will continue to target anyone involved in a crime. organized serious to maintain this positive dynamic. Wilkinson said.
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