Two residents from Lytham St. Anne’s were among an organised crime group (OCG) who used encrypted phones and set up a fake healthcare company so they could run their drug-dealing empire during the Covid pandemic. Members of the gang have, in total, been jailed for more than 70 years.
Masquerading as ‘Rainbow Care Ltd’, a fake healthcare company, the OCG were active in selling cocaine and cannabis throughout Lytham St. Anne’s, Blackpool and Cleveleys.
The beginning of the end for the OCG came on May 1, 2020. That was when defendant and OCG kingpin Kurt Bradshaw was observed by officers behaving suspiciously when they pulled up behind his Volkswagen Scirocco in Blackpool.
When the vehicle was searched, Police found a large amount of cannabis in bin liners and an iPhone.
When Police attended Bradshaw’s home in Thornton-Cleveleys to conduct a search his co-defendants Jack Pope, Craig Hollis and Kynan Dawes were all present.
Pope admitted he lived in one of the upstairs bedrooms, and in there officers found two tubs filled with cannabis and a white iPhone.
Hollis said he was Bradshaw’s brother and was staying in the ground floor bedroom but disassociated himself from cash, cannabis, cash counting machine, mobile phones and snap bags found inside – instead pointing the finger of blame at his sibling.
Hollis, Dawes and Pope all identified a second upstairs bedroom as belonging to Bradshaw. Inside there Police found nearly £25,000 of cannabis, snap bag, scales and drug dealer tick lists.
All four defendants were arrested and released under investigation while Police enquiries continued.
Those enquiries found damning evidence against the defendants, including their fingerprints on the packaged drugs found inside Bradshaw’s flat.
Bradshaw and Hollis were re-arrested inside Bradshaw’s flat in early November 2020, with further items seized including cannabis, watches, mobile phones and paperwork.
Co-defendant Jessica O’Brien was arrested at her home in Barham Street, Blackpool, with cocaine, scales, snap bags and a white iPhone seized from within the property.
Pope and his partner Laura Riding were arrested at their property in Alexandra Road, Lytham St Anne’s. Items seized include a Nike shoe box, which contained cocaine, scales, a knife, two iPhones and an iPad.
Examination of Bradshaw’s second phone found that he was using an encrypted handset to run his drugs empire. Drug-dealing related messages were found between Bradshaw and his drugs runners, who included his fiancé Tina Sullivan who was saved as ‘The Queen’ on his handset, as well as Lee Watson, and Dianne Banks and her partner Neil Facer.
Bradshaw also had a separate Encrochat handset and was using it to pass details of the OCG’s financial dealings to higherups.
Encrochat was one of the largest providers of encrypted communications and offered a secure mobile phone instant messaging service, but an international law enforcement team cracked the company’s encryption.
Evidence obtained outlined that Bradshaw was running the significant operation with the assistance of Nicole Watson – the sister of Lee Watson. She set up and ran drug dealing rotas, discussed what denominations of cash the group should accept and organised for the dealers to receive documents in their names for the fake company “Rainbow Care Ltd”, which was conceptualised in order to counter the COVID-19 restrictions on movements of individuals.
As well as forensic evidence Dawes, who used the aliases Kilo Delta and Superman, was linked to the conspiracy by telephony evidence. He also bought and collected drugs for the OCG.
Pope counted money for the OCG – over £80,000 in one specific two-month period between July and August 2019 – and the home he shared with Riding was also used as a base for collecting drugs.
Sullivan moved cash for the OCG, including £110,000 on one occasion between Lancashire and Wolverhampton, and her name was also found on concept branding for Rainbow Care Ltd.
Banks collected cash for the OCG, grew cannabis, sometimes operated the drugs phone and had some involvement in paying the dealers their ‘wages’.
Facer operated as a runner for the OCG, once having an issue with his Rainbow Care Ltd paperwork after Bradshaw spelled his name incorrectly.
O’Brien helped prepare and bag the drugs for the OCG.
Lee Watson operated the drugs phone for the OCG.
Hollis and Riding were linked to the conspiracy by messages found on their phones.
Riding, 28, of Alexandra Road, Lytham St Anne’s, pleaded guilty to knowingly participated in the criminal activities of an organised crime group by assisting in the preparation of cocaine for onward supply at Preston Crown Court earlier this month. She will be sentenced on January 22, 2024.
Eleven other people were convicted and sentenced for their criminal roles in the OCG earlier this year. They are:
- Kurt Bradshaw, 30, of Bedford Road, Thornton-Cleveleys. Convicted of conspiracy to supply cocaine and cannabis. Jailed for 12 years and nine months.
- Nicole Watson, 32, of Meanwood Avenue, Blackpool. Convicted of conspiracy to supply cocaine. Jailed for nine years and nine months.
- Lee Watson, 32, of Watson Road Blackpool. Convicted of conspiracy to supply cocaine. Jailed for eight years.
- Kynan Dawes, 31, of Ash Street, Blackpool. Convicted of conspiracy to supply cocaine and cannabis. Jailed for seven years and nine months.
- Jack Pope, 29, of Alexandra Road, Lytham St Anne’s. Convicted of conspiracy to supply cocaine and cannabis. Jailed for seven years and one month.
- Neil Facer, 54, of Westfield Road, Blackpool. Convicted of conspiracy to supply cocaine. Jailed for seven years and one month.
- Dianne Banks, 42, of Westfield Road, Blackpool. Convicted of conspiracy to supply cocaine and cannabis. Jailed for six years and nine months.
- Robert Jones, 36, of North Square, Blackpool. Convicted of conspiracy to supply cocaine. Jailed for five years and three months.
- Tina Sullivan, 29, of Bedford Road, Blackpool. Convicted of conspiracy to supply cocaine. Jailed for four years and six months.
- Jessica O’Brien, 28, of Barham Street, Blackpool. Convicted of conspiracy to supply cocaine. Jailed for four years.
- Craig Hollis, 21, of Nutter Road, Thornton-Cleveleys. Convicted of conspiracy to supply cannabis. Received a community order.
DI Kirsty Wyatt, of West CID, said: “This was a sophisticated criminally network whose only goal was to flood the west of our county with illegal drugs for their own greed. Not only did they use encrypted phones to try and avoid detection, they also went to the extreme lengths of setting up a fake health care company in a bid to stop their dealers being arrested and searched for being out without a valid excuse during the Covid pandemic.
“A lot of hard work has gone into identifying and dismantling this OCG and I want to place on record my thanks to our dedicated staff for their tireless efforts, particularly DC Brierley who was the officer in charge of this investigation.
“I welcome the sentences handed down to each of the defendants which reflect their roles in this conspiracy.”
This pro-active work comes under Operation Warrior, which is our response to tackling serious and organised crime in Lancashire and delivering on Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden’s Fighting Crime Plan priority of disrupting and dismantling organised crime.
Mr Snowden said: “It’s important that we send a clear message to criminals that police are coming to get you, and this is another great example of the work officers do, every single day, to disrupt and dismantle organised crime gangs and put them behind bars.
“It’s what Op Warrior is all about, taking the fight to criminals that blight our communities, delivering on my Fighting Crime Plan and seeing even more arrests, more asset seizures and more drugs off our streets. Results like this, which will directly make Lancashire safer, are what the public want to see and deliver on a top priority in my Fighting Crime Plan.
“I would encourage anyone to report suspicious activity, or any information that might help in bringing criminals to justice. We continue to go after more and make sure those involved in organised crime feel the full force of the law and have their day in court.”
Lytham St. Anne’s resident Jack Pope is pictured below
Here are the members of the OCD