Two men have been jailed today (Thursday 9 December) after one offender was identified from a photograph he took holding cannabis in his hand.
Nathan Harding, 30 years, of Toxteth and Craig O’Hare, 33 years, of Roby, were sentenced today at Liverpool Crown Court for conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs.
Harding was sentenced to 18 years and 5 months while O’Hare received 6 years 6 months imprisonment as they worked together to supply multi kilos of cocaine, heroin and cannabis across Merseyside and other parts of the UK.
Both men were arrested in June as part of Merseyside Police response to Operation Venetic: an international operation targeting criminals who used a mobile encryption service, commonly referred to as Encrochat, in an attempt to evade detection.
Harding used the Encrochat handle Magiccider between April to May 2020. The handle was then passed over to O’Hare who used it from May 2020. Subsequently, Harding created a new handle called Lesserhedge to continue carrying out his criminal activity.
Harding was identified from his fingerprints which were analysed after sharing an image on his Encro device of him holding cannabis in his hand. Detectives discovered text messages where he discussed the sale of cocaine and heroin with an estimated wholesale value of £521,000, along with 193 kilos of cannabis worth around £1 million – a total worth of £1.5 million.
Encrochat data also evidenced that O’Hare had transported the drugs and found that he supplied up to three kilos of Class A drugs and 10 kilos of cannabis. He was identified through personal details in messages.
Both men were due to stand trial on Monday 6 December, however, on the day they decided to plead guilty and they were sentenced today (9 December).
Detective Inspector Mike Dalton said, “This latest conviction under Operation Venetic is the latest in a long line of convictions secured thanks to the mountain of evidence our officers have been able to produce.
“In this instance, the evidence was so overwhelming that both men changed their plea to guilty, so they didn’t have to face trial and potentially face even longer behind bars!
“Today’s sentencing is further proof that crime does not pay – we will work with other agencies to stay one step ahead of these criminals, tirelessly pursuing anyone who seeks to break the law and exploit vulnerable people in our communities to line their own pockets.
“I hope that this and many other Venetic sentences show that organised crime is no way to earn money – not only will you face losing your liberty but Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings will follow which seek to strip criminals of their ill-gotten gains so they can be reinvested into communities.”