A Huyton man has become the latest in Merseyside to be jailed in connection with an international operation targeting criminals who used a mobile encryption service to try to evade detection.
26-year-old Michael Townsend of Grant Road, Huyton was sentenced to six years in prison at Liverpool Crown Court today, Tuesday 9 February. Townsend was convicted of conspiracy to supply cannabis and acquire/use/possess criminal property.
Townsend was evidenced as using the handle ‘sacredmask’, and was involved in the multi-kilo supply of cannabis to various contacts. He was arrested by detectives on 18 June 2020.
A total of three Merseyside men have now been sentenced after the operation, which has involved European law enforcement agencies working with the NCA and supported across the UK by police forces and Regional Organised Crime Units.
The operation came about after law enforcement officials in Europe managed to crack the ‘encrochat’ service being used by criminals involved in serious and organised crime to carry out their business. Arrests are continuing on Merseyside as part of this operation.
Leading the Merseyside Police investigations is Detective Inspector Lee Wilkinson, who said: “Today’s sentencing of Michael Townsend once again how seriously police and the courts take those organised criminals who supply drugs and misery in Merseyside and beyond.
“Townsend was supplying multi-kilo amounts of cannabis and generating vast profits in doing so. He will now perhaps take time to reflect on the risks he took and the harm he caused, while serving a significant jail term.
“As part of Operation Venetic, Merseyside Police has so far arrested more than 60 people, of which 35 have been charged with serious drug trafficking or firearms offences. This year will see a number of these people continuing to appear before the courts, and we welcome each and every one, which serves to disrupt and dismantle organised crime across the world.
“We’re working closely alongside our partners in the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU) and the National Crime Agency (NCA) in these and other investigations, so expect to see a lot more good news in the coming weeks and months.
“Townsend, like many others, thought that by using encrypted devices they could evade justice. He was wrong, and he won’t be last to realise this.
“Merseyside Police has a proven track record in dealing robustly with individuals responsible for the wholesale supply of illegal drugs both locally and across the country. These people often use violence, including guns and knives, to protect their business interests, as well as exploiting young and vulnerable people and bringing fear and intimidation to the communities they live and operate in. No decent person wants such harm in their communities.
“Around 60,000 users of encrochat have been identified worldwide, with about 10,000 of them in the UK – all involved in coordinating and planning the supply and distribution of drugs and weapons, money laundering and other criminal activity.
“Merseyside and many areas of the UK are safer thanks to this operation, and we will continue to target anyone involved in serious organised crime to keep this positive momentum going.”