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Repeat offender jailed for 20 years had snap of £1m cash bagged up in storage tub on Encrochat phone

A GANG boss repeat offender, who went on the run after the Encrochat hack, has been jailed for 20 years for leading an organised crime group that supplied around 150kgs of cocaine worth about £21 million to dealers in London and Berkshire.

Patrick Ince, 57, (above) from Anvil Terrace, Dartford in Kent, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs and one count of money laundering at Kingston Crown Court and was sentenced this morning.

Investigators found images of cash on his Encrochat phone that were marked up as "Jock" for Scottish and "Irish" notes, including one of a storage tub marked as containing £1 million.

Ince’s group sourced and distributed more than 150 kilos of cocaine and handled approximately £4.5 million in associated cash.

His criminal contacts included a men he is believed to have met in prison for an earlier drugs conviction.

They also supplied smaller quantities of ketamine throughout south east England.

Five members have already been jailed for a total of 68 years, which can now be revealed after reporting restrictions were lifted.

Ince and his gang were arrested following the hack by Dutch and French police of the Encrochat encrypted phone system and was found to be using one in a big to avoid detection.

All but one were found to have used EncroChat devices to aid their criminality.

In April 2020 Dutch and French investigators broke through the encryption of the supposedly secure Encrochat encrypted phone communication platform, which was being used by around 50,000 people worldwide, including about 9,000 in the UK.

They allowed police forces across Europe, including in the UK, access to previously sent and new "real time" messaging between suspected organised crime groups.

It led to hundreds of raids, arrests and seizures of drugs, cash and firearms across the UK in a series of unconnected operations.

Encrochat shut itself down when it discovered the hack in June 2020.

Police and other agencies are allowed in this country to tap into phone calls as they happen, known as a live intercept, but it can only be used for intelligence purposes and not as prosecution evidence in court.

Yet, the NCA, police and CPS have introduced real time messages from the Encrochat hack into criminal prosecutions under Operation Venetic.

Legal challenges have so far failed, but a group of defendants are continuing with an application to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which was adjourned earlier this year.

At Ince's sentence today Judge Stephen John jailed him for 20 years and made a forfeiture order for all his phones.

Officers from the Organised Crime Partnership – a joint National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police Service unit – established that Patrick Ince, 57, from Dartford in Kent, was using encrypted messaging platform EncroChat to oversee the enterprise.

L to R: Top row Ince, Eldridge and Smith. Bottom Matheson, Wilmot and James

Operation Venetic is the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of the EncroChat service.

Ince and fellow group member Mark Eldridge, 53, from West Wickham in Kent, employed trusted couriers Anthony Smith, 77, from Greenhithe in Kent and Michael Kelleher of Plumstead (now deceased).

They also supplied drugs to Berkshire-based dealers William James, 35, from Crowthorne, and Richard Wilmot, 42, of Ascot.

Nathan Matheson, 35, from Bracknell, was also identified as a trusted courier and store person for James.

Smith was ordered by Ince and Eldridge via EncroChat to deliver £2 million worth of cocaine and £127,000 in cash to other criminals across London, Essex, Birmingham, Cornwall and Glasgow.

He was known on Ince’s contacts list as ‘Stan Hill’, which is believed to refer to the two having met at HMP Standford Hill in 2013, while incarcerated for drug supply offences.

Between them, James and Wilmot supplied £3.5 million worth of cocaine in London and Berkshire, as well as 15 kilos of ketamine, worth a potential £600,000 to dealers.

The pair also laundered over £1 million in cash linked to the supply of those drugs.

All of the men were arrested at their home addresses on 21 April last year with the exception of Ince, who went on the run, and Smith who was in prison on remand for other offences.

Ince was arrested on 28 October, after being located in the Plumsted area.

All were later charged with conspiracy to supply controlled drugs and acquire criminal property.

Wilmot and James pleaded guilty at Kingston Crown Court on 24 May, Eldridge on 17 September and Ince on 28 February this year. Matheson and Smith were convicted on 10 December following a three-week trial at the same court.

On 25 January this year Eldridge, Wilmot, James, Smith and Matheson were sentenced to a total of 68 years in prison. Ince was jailed for 20 years today (7 April).

Andrew Tickner, from the Organised Crime Partnership, said:

“Patrick Ince, along with his right-hand man Mark Eldridge, arranged the movement of cocaine worth tens of millions of pounds.

“The tentacles of their gang stretched across the UK, enabling drugs to seep into communities where they would drive high levels of violence and intimidation.

“Our investigation tore this organised crime group apart and in doing so removed a significant wholesale supplier for dealers across the country.”

In March 2009 Ince was jailed for ten years (old mugshot above) after he was found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A and B drugs at the same court.

That trial heard he was part of a gang with a former Met Police detective who smuggled £4million worth of drugs from France into the UK on a boat that landed at a remote beach at Capel-le-Ferne in Kent in May 2008.

The group had a key for a storm drain containing 200kg (440lb) of drugs, including cocaine, amphetamine and skunk cannabis.

Eldridge (below) of Langley Way, West Wickham, Kent, was also jailed for 20 years after being convicted of one count each of conspiracy to supply controlled drugs (cocaine), conspiracy to acquire criminal property and possession of criminal property. He was under a serious crime order, to try to prevent class A drug supply reoffending, which was issued at Southwark Crown Court in September 2009 and due to expire in 2024.

James, of Old Wokingham Road, Crowthorne, Berkshire, was convicted of three counts of conspiracy to supply controlled drugs (two of cocaine and one of ketamine) and three counts of conspiracy to acquire criminal property and jailed for 12 years.

Wilmot, 42, of Martingales Close, Ascot, Berkshire, was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to supply controlled drugs (one each of cocaine ketamine), two counts of conspiracy to acquire criminal property and one count of possession of criminal property and jailed for 12 years.

Smith, of Louvain Road, Greenhithe, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to supply controlled drugs (cocaine) and one count of conspiracy to acquire criminal property and jailed for 12 years.

Matheson, of Batcombe Mead, Bracknell, Berkshire, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to supply controlled drugs (cocaine), one count of conspiracy to acquire criminal property and one count of failing to comply with Section 49 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. He was jailed for 12 years.


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