EncroChat 'example' sentences continue as two drug gang leaders get 35 and 34 years each


ENCROCHAT gang leaders are being made examples of with two whopping sentences doled out at Liverpool Crown Court today.

Anthony Saunderson, 42, (top left) of Formby, Merseyside, was jailed for 35 years after being convicted of a string of drug supply offences and one count concerning a firearm.

Paul Mount, 38, (top right) of Halsall, Lancashire, was jailed for 34 years after being convicted of similar offences.

Last year Essex News and Investigations revealed that convicted EncroChat gangsters were being made examples of by the criminal justice system.

It was after our editor Jon Austin, who was watching EncroChat cases via a remote CVP link, overheard a CPS barrister discussing sentencing during a break.

The barrister suggested judges were "going outside of sentencing guidelines" with EncroChat cases, something the CPS later denied was happening.

Saunderson was convicted of conspiracy to produce and supply class A and class B amphetamine, conspiracy to supply other class A drugs, conspiracy to supply other class B drugs and conspiracy to transfer a prohibited weapon.

Mount was convicted of conspiracy to produce and supply class A and class B amphetamine, conspiracy to supply other class A drugs, conspiracy to supply other class B drugs and conspiracy to purchase a prohibited weapon.

Last year Essex News and Investigations exclusively revealed the pair, and nine other defendants, had pleaded not guilty after several EncroChat defendants said they had been pressurised to enter guilty pleas.

Liverpool Crown Court heard the pair led a gang that produced hundreds of kilograms of drugs.

They shipped large quantities of injectable amphetamines across England, Scotland and Wales and also dealt

cocaine, heroin, ketamine and other drugs.

The operation was found after the hack by French and Dutch police of the EncroChat encrypted messaging service in April 2020.

The system was used by 60,000 people worldwide and about 9,000 in the UK.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) was provided with historic and real-time messaging from the devices and those sent by this gang identified a drugs lab in a cottage in Sealand on the outskirts of Chester, which was used to produce amphetamine.

Police in North Wales put the property under surveillance and the gang ceased operations there.

Merseyside Police later discovered they then tried to get a storage unit at an Aintree industrial site, The Boxworks, to store chemicals to make the drugs.

It is estimated that class A and B drugs, valued at more than £6m, were either supplied or offered for supply by the gang between April and June 2020.

It also emerged that the organised crime gang were producing amphetamine for intravenous use making it a class A controlled drug instead of its normal class B classification.

Mount, who used the EncroChat handle ‘Nova-Club’, Saunderson and Darren Owens, 48, of Knowsley Lane, Huyton, Merseyside, were the principal organisers in the group and were all involved in the wholesale dealing of controlled drugs on a massive scale. In addition to amphetamine production he was in discussions in relation to the supply of huge quantities of cocaine and heroin to Scotland. He was also involved in the wholesale supply of cannabis and evidence showed that at some point during the conspiracy he access to a Glock handgun with associated ammunition. Saunderson used the EncroChat handles ‘jessie-pinkman’ - the character from Breaking Bad and ‘James-Gandolfini’ - the late Sopranos actor. He was involved in the directing and organising of the production of amphetamine and the buying and selling on an industrial scale. He was also involved in the supply of class A controlled drugs and evidence linked him to a conspiracy to sell or transfer prohibited weapons including a Grandpower handgun, a Glock handgun and a CZ firearm with associated ammunition. Owens, who used the EncroChat handles ‘Paperjaguar’ and ‘PierreWhite’, was involved in the production and supply of amphetamine and assisted in providing vans when required to assist Saunderson and Mount in arranging for chemicals and drugs to be moved into the premises in Aintree. Owens, was convicted of conspiracy to produce and supply a class A drugs (Amphetamine), conspiracy to produce and supply a class B drug (amphetamine), conspiracy to supply other class B drugs (cannabis, ketamine, MCAT and Diazepam) and conspiracy to produce other class B drugs (ketamine and MCAT) and jailed for a total of 24 years.

Michael Pope, 35, of no fixed abode, but previously from the Maghull area, used the EncroChat handle ‘strikingpuma’ and was involved in the wholesale supply of class A drugs and the sourcing of supply and drugs on a commercial scale. Pope was convicted of conspiracy to supply class B (amphetamine), conspiracy to supply class A (cocaine and heroin) and conspiracy to supply other class B drugs (cannabis, ketamine, MCAT and Diazepam) and jailed for a total of 17 years and six months. Kieran Hartley, 32, of Moss Side, Liverpool, who used the EncroChat handle ‘bigwaiter’ worked alongside Darren Owens and was in contact with suppliers and customers. Hartley was convicted of conspiracy to produce and supply class A drugs (amphetamine), conspiracy to produce and supply a class B drug (amphetamine), conspiracy to supply other class B drugs (cannabis, ketamine, MCAT and Diazepam) and conspiracy to produce other class B drugs (ketamine and MCAT) and jailed for a total of 23 years. Lee Eccles, 33, of no fixed abode, but formerly of Maghull played a leading role in the class B Amphetamine production conspiracy and was also involved in the supply of the amphetamine produced. He had close links to the original source of the drugs, substantial links to and worked alongside others involved in the production and supply chain and was working with the expectation of substantial financial advantage. As well as travelling independently to Wood Cottage, on occasions he travelled with both Anthony Saunderson and Darren Owens. Additionally, he went to the Boxworks, Aintree with Anthony Saunderson on the day the team got access to the unit. Eccles, was convicted of conspiracy to produce and supply class B (amphetamine). He was jailed for a total of eight years and nine months. David Kelly, 44, of no fixed abode, but formerly from Maghull, used the EncroChat handle ‘atom-game’. He used a breakdown recovery truck to transport cash and drugs across the country. He was convicted of conspiracy to supply class A drugs (amphetamine), conspiracy to supply class B drugs (amphetamine), conspiracy to supply class A (cocaine and heroin) and conspiracy to supply other class B drugs (cannabis, ketamine, MCAT and Diazepam and jailed for a total of 15 years and three months.

Stefon Beeby, 42, formerly of the Halifax area, was convicted of conspiracy to produce and supply class A drugs (amphetamine) and conspiracy to produce and supply a class B drug (amphetamine). He was jailed for 15 years and six months. Stephen Shearwood, 38, of no fixed abode, but previously from the Maghull area, used the EncroChat handle ‘octo-ice’ and was involved in the storage and movement of drugs, chemicals and cash. He was convicted of conspiracy to produce and supply class B drugs (amphetamine), conspiracy to supply Class A drugs (cocaine and heroin) and conspiracy to supply other class B drugs (cannabis, ketamine, MCAT and Diazepam) and was jailed for a total of 14 years and four months. A tenth man, Connor Smith, 29, of no fixed abode, but formerly of Maghull, used the EncroChat handle ‘Tactical Hawk’. He was involved in the buying and selling of cannabis on an industrial scale, including its importation. He was convicted of conspiracy to supply other class B drugs (cannabis, ketamine, MCAT and Diazepam), and conspiracy to produce cannabis. He will be sentenced on 22nd September. Speaking after the sentencing Detective Inspector Paul McVeigh said: “This was a huge operation which saw vast quantities of class A and B drugs produced and distributed across the whole of Great Britain on an industrial scale. “This was a business that was operating not just within England and Wales but also involved the supply of large quantities of drugs to Scotland, including to customers in Dundee and Glasgow. “Our operation, working alongside our colleagues in North Wales, began in the spring of 2020 following the receipt of Encrochat material gathered by the National Crime Agency. “Thanks to the investigative work of both forces nine people have now been sentenced to over 187 years behind bars.

“Each of those sentenced took part in the business for at least significant financial gain and although they all played different roles and were involved to differing degrees they were all aware of the scale of the operation. “We know the destruction that drug dealing brings to our communities. Those involved in the supply of drugs and use of weapons have no regard for the lives they affect and the harm they can cause, and we are committed to pursuing those involved in serious and organised crime and bringing them to justice. “Today’s sentences shows the level of our commitment and how seriously this type of activity is viewed by the courts. I am delighted that these sentences will see dangerous people removed from the streets of Merseyside for a considerable period of time and I hope that our communities feel reassured that we are continuing to take positive action and support us in our efforts. “We are constantly working with other forces and partners to target offenders and take action, and information from our communities plays a vital part in this. I would like to urge anyone with information on criminality in your area to please come forward so we can act upon it.”

Detective Chief Inspector Lee Boycott, from North Wales Police, said: “This has been a protracted and lengthy investigation.

"The geography involved and scale of the production enterprise was unprecedented for North Wales. The criminal gang produced amphetamine on an industrial scale from the drugs factory in Sealand. The drugs were distributed across various parts of the UK.

"The evidence gathered as part of the investigation revealed that between April and June 2020, the quantities of controlled drugs produced to be eye watering.

"The Sealand illicit lab converted 2.6 tonnes of raw chemicals into controlled drugs. In total over that three month period, the gang produced an estimated 939 litres of amphetamine oil (a pure form of the drug) and 709kgs of amphetamine with a wholesale value of around £1 million. They even discussed increasing that capacity.

"Such was the scale of the production enterprise, the raw materials were moved onsite with plant machinery and HGVs involved in the logistics. The enterprise produced amphetamine on a multi-million pound commercial scale. It is satisfying today to see the culmination of the investigation all nine offenders jailed for their crimes.

"We are committed to working along with other agencies and our partners in Merseyside Police, to show gangs who deal in drugs and attempt to corrupt our communities will be continually targeted. This result is not only testament to the hard work and dedication of Serious & Organised Crime teams involved, but also to the support we received from the public, who assist greatly in tackling this crime that has such a detrimental effect on people's lives.

"I would ask anyone who has any information about who is supplying or selling drugs in their area to contact us so we can take action. We will continue to strive to make North Wales the safest place to live in the UK."