A former Tranmere Rovers footballer has been jailed for 12 years for supplying hundreds of kilograms of drugs via an encrypted messaging app.
Sean Calvert, 25, was once a promising young midfielder but "fell by the wayside" and turned to sourcing heroin, cocaine and cannabis via Encrochat - a encrypted platform often used for illegal activity.
His communications evidenced his involvement in the supply of a total of 23kg of cocaine, 3kg of heroin and 110kg of cannabis, as well as the handling of £220,150 in dirty cash - leading him to be arrested at Manchester Airport on 18 July.
Calvert admitted conspiracy to supply heroin, cocaine and cannabis and conspiracy to launder money.
Liverpool Crown Court on Monday 18 September that he was attributed as the user of the handle "SoundDill" after his contacts were found to have called him "Calv" when the network was infiltrated by law enforcement authorities in 2020.
Nicola Daley, prosecuting, described how Calvert, of Fairclough Road in Huyton, also revealed the addresses and dates of birth of close family members and referenced his spells playing for AFC Liverpool and in China.
The account was meanwhile used to send a photograph showing a hand, which allowed experts to identify him via his fingerprints.
He had 96 other handles "covering a broad geographical reach" stored on his device, and had been in touch with 41 of these during the three-month period of data which was captured by the hack.
Calvert was found to have "worked alongside" fellow user "EmuVest" in purchasing kilogram quantities of class A drugs, which were then broken down into smaller amounts and sold at street level using graft phones which were operated by others on their behalf.
This allowed them to make profits of around £5,000 per kg, although he pointed out how they could "make more money if they ran the phone lines themselves".
At this time, he was found to be in possession of a Google phone which had "VLHAD" installed on it - an application which Ms Daley said "is believed to be another encrypted platform, similar to EncroChat".
The defendant has one previous conviction for battery and a public order offence in 2020, and was fined by magistrates.
Calvert came through the youth system at Tranmere, being described as a "fluent ball-playing midfielder with an eye for goal", and also latterly turned out for Welsh second tier side Flint Town United.
Michael Scholes, defending, meanwhile referenced his client having previously coached "young, underprivileged children in Inner Mongolia".
He added: "Clearly, this is a young man who has gone in very much at the deep end. He has no illusions about what fate has in store for him.
"It is very, very sad to see of a young man who was clearly not only very well thought of by others but also a young man who has family responsibilities and was an extremely talented amateur football who hoped to pursue a career in the professional game.
"For all those who appear in the press earning huge amounts of money when exported to Saudi Arabia, there are those who fall by the wayside.
"Mr Calvert is one of those who fell by the wayside, but he is a committed footballer. He was, to an extent, seduced by others who were more knowledgeable.
"He does not seek to suggest that this is a case where he was put under any pressure. He thought it was easy money.
"He was introduced to the game. The selling point for EncroChat was 'you will be invincible, no one will catch you'.
"If ever there was an advertising slogan which failed, it was that one. He is determined that this is the one and only occasion, albeit in very serious circumstances, that he will appear before the courts.
"He is determined to learn his lesson. Clearly he is a fit, able and intelligent young man.
"This is not large scale, wholesale supplying. It is breaking quantities down for street dealing.
"It is unappealing, but you are not dealing with a hypermarket and probably not even a large supermarket. But is is something rather larger than a corner shop.
"References speak very well of the defendant. He is the author of his own misfortune but was perhaps seduced by the prospect of what others offered to him, of easy money, without giving a full and mature assessment to what was really involved."
"It is very sad to see somebody of your potential finding yourself in this position. References speak extremely well of you and of the extreme surprise that you find yourself in the position that you do.
"You were deeply entrenched in the supply of these drugs. I am not going to lecture you about the damage these drugs cause in society."