Wirral men jailed for 76 years for drugs supply

Four men from Wirral have been jailed for a combined 76 years for their involvement in a wide-scale plot to supply cocaine across the country.

The following men were all sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court on Wednesday, 28 February, after a jury found them guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine:

  • Joseph Drake, 48, of Overchurch Road, Upton, was sentenced to 26 years.
  • Joseph Cropper, 40, of Lynnebank, Oxton, was sentenced to 19 years.
  • Ronan Hanlon, 41, of South Hill Road, Oxton, was sentenced to 15 years and six months.
  • Jordan Smith, 26, of Townsend Street, Bidston, was sentenced to 16 years.

These are the latest men in Merseyside to be jailed as part of Operation Venetic – an international operation targeting criminals who used a mobile encryption service to try to evade detection.

Following a complex investigation, it was found that Drake, Cropper, Hanlon, and Smith were all part of an organised crime group who were supplying large quantities of cocaine between March and July 2020.

Through the Encrochat handles ‘unrealpenguin’, ‘titanicpainter’ and ‘moodycamel’, they would sell the Class A drugs across the country and in some cases as far as Glasgow.

Detectives were able to link them to around £8.4million worth of cocaine, which would fund their lavish lifestyles while causing misery for countless communities up and down the UK.

They were arrested after detectives identified an address linked to Hanlon by some of the images shared through their Encrochat devices.

They were also able to identify Cropper by an image sent through a device that showed his hand and detectives were able to successfully identify his fingerprint.

Detective Chief Inspector Matt Caton said, “Clearly these men thought they could evade the police by hiding behind Encrochat handles, but sadly for them this wasn’t the case.

“These are the latest men to be arrested having been caught out through using encrypted devices and they will now be spending a considerable amount of time in prison.

“We know the destruction that drug supply causes and Merseyside Police remains relentless in our pursuit of these criminals and to bring down serious and organised criminal groups.

“I hope this result shows that our officers will leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of these people who think they are above the law and believe they can evade justice.
“We will continue to target criminals like Drake, Cropper, Hanlon and Smith by thoroughly examining any evidence and carrying out any necessary arrests across Merseyside.”

Anyone with information on drug dealing is asked to contact @MerPolCC, or Crimestoppers, anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Image: Merseyside Police

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