Three drug dealers have been jailed after police read dozens of encrypted messages between them and their suppliers.
Jerome O’Connor, Jahvan Morris and Abdul Aziz conspired to bring tens-of-thousands-of-pounds-worth of cocaine onto the streets of Nottinghamshire.
Officers from Nottinghamshire Police tracked the gang for several months before tailing them to a deal in Suffolk and catching them red-handed on the way home.
Police said Morris had been instructed by gang-leader O’Connor to travel to Ipswich on 9 June 2020, to pick up a consignment of cocaine.
Travelling in Aziz’s taxi to avoid suspicion during Covid restrictions, they were tracked to and from the deal by police, who waited until they were back in Nottinghamshire before pulling them over on the A52 near Saxondale Island.
Inside, officers said they found a supermarket bag containing nearly a kilogram of cocaine and the pair were arrested.
O’Connor was detained several months later after going into hiding and denied knowing either of the other two men.
He also denied travelling in various cars linked to him by police – including a rental car paid for with his credit card and hired with his driving licence.
Officers had previously used automatic number plate recognition cameras and mobile phone data to tie O’Connor to several previous trips to the same location.
Other unusually brief trips were recorded to locations in Gloucestershire and Sheffield.
Subsequent financial enquiries identified O`Connor had also sought to launder tens of thousands of pounds of criminal cash through his own bank accounts.
O’Connor, aged 36, formerly of Oakley Court, Gedling, later pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply class A drugs and money laundering offences.
O’Connor admitted to playing the leading role in the supply of five kilograms of cocaine and laundering more than £47,000 in cash.
Morris, aged 41, formerly of Elford Rise, St Ann’s, pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and Supplying Cannabis.
Aziz, aged 68, of Tynedale Close, Aspley, played a lesser role as a courier and pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting both O’Connor and Morris.
Appearing at Leicester Crown Court on Thursday they were jailed for 14 years and three months; six years and a three years and nine months respectively.
Detective Sergeant Emma Pollard, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “These men conspired to bring very large amounts of illegal drugs into our communities, so we’re pleased they have been held to account.
“They were exposed by a long and complex police investigation involving dozens of officers and staff and I would like to thank each of them for their hard work and professionalism.
“Illegal drugs are a blight on our communities and bring misery to the lives of often vulnerable people, which is why we will continue to go after those who bring them to our streets.
“Although there was a very clear hierarchy at play in this case, with O’Connor at the top, every one of these men played a key role in a very significant drug dealing operation and will now spend a considerable amount of time in jail as a result.
“I hope, then, that this case serves as a warning to others involved in the sale of illegal drugs.
“You can be as careful as you like. You can even use encrypted messaging platforms.
“But that doesn’t mean we aren’t on to you and doesn’t mean we’re not watching your every move and planning when to strike.”
Detective Constable Jason Wood, leading officer in the case, said: “This was a challenging case due to use of the encrypted devices but working with the information supplied by the National Crime Agency we were able to secure the evidence which led to the three defendants
“This was a protracted investigation but the hard work carried out by all officers and CPS staff involved is what secured these convictions.”
During the course of the investigation financial investigators also identified more than £51,000-00 in bank accounts connected to O`Connor – money that was frozen using a restraint order.
When he was sentenced, O`Connor admitted the money belonged to him.
A confiscation timetable has now been set to ensure all these monies and any other criminal funds are confiscated.