A man in Blacon was caught using an encrypted messaging service to communicate on a large scale drugs conspiracy.
Richard Marshall, previously of Adelaide Road, used codenames ‘Nova-Case’ and ‘UsefulOx’ while accessing EncroChat, a secretive communications network used exclusively by serious and organised criminals.
The 37-year-old is also the first in Cheshire to be sentenced since the bespoke service was cracked by international law enforcement, working with the National Crime Agency, in May 2020.
Detectives from Cheshire’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) analysed the encrypted data used by Marshall and read his messages to other EncroChat users where he discussed buying and selling cocaine and cannabis, between 29 November 2019 and 1 July 2020.
The messages also alluded to identifying a lorry being stopped by customs and the loss of a large scale commodity of cannabis in which Marshall was an investor.
On 1 July a warrant was executed at Marshall’s home address. After a thorough search a sports bag containing two bags of cannabis, a large quantity of cash and cocaine, devices and drug paraphernalia were seized.
Marshall was arrested at the house and conveyed to custody for questioning before being charged later the same day.
On Monday 11 January Marshall was sentenced to nine years for conspiracy to supply cocaine and conspiracy to supply and import cannabis.
He was sentenced at Chester Crown Court after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing.
Detective Chief Inspector Mike Evans, from Cheshire’s SOCU, said: “Marshall’s sentencing was centred solely from evidence gained through his use of EncroChat.
“He believed EncroChat was a safe and secure service that would enable him to message freely and openly without being detected. Therefore his naivety meant he had no choice but to come clean and admit to his involvement in a drugs conspiracy.
“Marshall is also the first person in Cheshire to be sentenced since we were able to gain access to the encrypted software.
“Working alongside our partners, the National Crime Agency and the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, we have been able to be one step ahead of this criminality to make Cheshire a much safer place.”
David Keane, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, said: “I am pleased to see the first person in Cheshire has been sentenced since this encrypted device, used by many criminals across Europe, was dismantled.
“This is a positive step for our communities who are often blighted by those involved in serious and organised crime and I would like to commend detectives who have been working tirelessly to gather the evidence to ensure justice is served.”
Pictured - Richard Marshall, previously of Adelaide Road.