Photographs of a can of Stella Artois and a ham sandwich helped to catch a pair of Fylde drug dealers as Lancashire Police foiled their conspiracy by cracking their Encrochat phone lines.
Thanks to these items, Lancashire Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Team were able to prove that 36 year old Richard Wylie and 55 year old Richard Whiteside were the owners of the Encrochat handles Somesnail and Peppershirt, and were using these phones to supply drugs across the county. The items in photographs were matched to the Whiteside’ s home in Blackpool.
It was part of Operation Venetic, a UK crackdown on EncroChat. EncroChat was used by criminals across Europe for a number of years before the network was cracked by police in 2020.
At Preston Crown Court, Richard Wylie formerly of The Stables, Thornton Cleveleys, was jailed for six years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of class A cocaine, conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of class A cocaine, conspiracy to transfer and conceal criminal property and being concerned in supplying a controlled drug of class A to others.
Whiteside from Mickledon Road in Blackpool, admitted conspiracy to transfer and conceal criminal property and possessing criminal property. He was given a four-year jail term.
Two other men, Daniel Hindley, 40, and Jamie Finney, 37, are still on the run.
Detective Chief Insp James Edmonds said: ‘Like many other users of EncroChat, the criminals operating in Lancashire will have mistakenly thought that they could traffic drugs with impunity, under the radar of the police – our successes as part of Op Venetic show how wrong they are.
We continue to work both with the NCA, the NWROCU, and other forces across the region and the UK to take the fight to criminals and ensure there are no safe spaces in Lancashire for serious and organised criminals, including those who seek to profit from a class A drugs trade which fuels violence and exploitation in our communities.
This sort of activity is just one aspect of our continued fight to tackle serious and organised crime. I hope this sends a clear message to the public of our determination to rid communities of this sort of criminalisation and to make our streets safer.’
Police still want to speak to two other men, Daniel Hindley, 40, and Jamie Finney, 37, as part of the same investigation. Both men are currently believed to be abroad. They are pictured below.
Detectives would ask anyone with information about them to get in touch.