A Carlisle cocaine and heroin dealer snared after law enforcement agencies cracked the encrypted global EncroChat network used across Europe by organised criminals has been jailed for more than eight years.
Francis Pattinson, 28, was sentenced at the city’s crown court for five offences which emerged following the infiltration of EncroChat in summer 2020.
EncroChat was a Europe-based highly encrypted and security protected internet messaging service only available through specialist and dedicated devices.
“It was believed by users to be totally secure and was used exclusively by those involved in illegal activity,” said prosecutor Charles Brown.
But after it was infiltrated by law enforcement bodies, top tier crooks were rounded up, vast amounts of illegal drugs and cash were seized, and the National Crime Agency was also supplied with unencrypted data in respect of UK users of EncroChat devices.
Among those devices was one used by Pattinson from March to June, 2020. Examination of messages sent, the court heard, showed he was involved in the supply of “significant quantities of controlled drugs”.
It was not possible, said Mr Brown, to say exactly how much with only EncroChat text and message data recovered, and voice communication leaving no trace.
However, an NCA officer estimated, based on text exchanges, that the minimum quantities which could have been unlawfully distributed were “6kg of cocaine, 2.5kg of heroin and 20kg of heroin”.
When Pattinson’s home was searched, around 20kg boric acid — often used as an adulterant to boost the weight available for sale — was found in the boot of a car.
EncroChat exchanges between Pattinson and a user believed to be based in mainland Europe appeared to show them working together; Pattinson being supplied by the contact and, in return, facilitating the UK end of that user’s distribution.
Pattinson, of Briar Bank, Carlisle, admitted possessing cocaine with intent to supply after 109g of high purity substance valued at around £4,000 was found at his home. He further admitted being concerned in the supply of cocaine, heroin, cannabis and codeine.
Judge Nicholas Barker heard of Pattinson’s challenging and troubled upbringing, of his reduced intellect, and that he showed promise but was easily led.
Jailing Pattinson for eight years four months, Judge Barker said of his illegal trade: “It has at its heart a deeply cynical nature which is the exploitation of those who are unfortunate enough to be addicted to these drugs, and engineer significant profits for the likes of you.”
After the infiltration of EncroChat, users received a text message in June, 2020, saying data was no longer secure.
It then ceased operations permanently having been one of the world’s largest encrypted communications services with an estimated 60,000 European users and 10,000 in the UK.