THREE drug dealers have been jailed for their involvement in a major multi-million-pound cocaine supply operation.
Judge David Swinnerton referred to ‘eye watering sums’ of criminal property that had been handled throughout the conspiracy – more than £3million – during the hearing at Liverpool Crown Court on Monday.
Carl Pickering, David Jones and Liam Reynolds played key roles in the cocaine smuggling plot organised by gang leader, Craig Gallagher.
Gallagher and his co-defendants were caught by the National Crime Agency after encrypted communications platform EncroChat was taken down in 2020 shortly after the offending had taken place.
The OCG leader was arrested at Manchester Airport in 2021 and was sentenced to 24 years at Liverpool Crown on August 2, this year.
Reynolds, from Liverpool, was facing charges of conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
Prosecuting, Stephen McNally said: “He acted as a receiver and distributor of drugs.
“He was contacted by Gallagher who was organising the distribution of drugs in kilos.”
Specifically, 50 kilos were distributed in the operation.
Messages recovered from EncroChat found Gallagher informing Reynolds he would have ‘work home on Sunday’ – referring to when the drugs would be delivered.
Reynolds, who was 23 at the time, was living at home with his mother and arranged to meet Gallaghers drug courier ‘on the street’.
Messages also alluded to quantities of drugs being passed on to Reynolds and transferred in cars, with completed transactions signed off with ‘sorted’.
Mr McNally added: “Messages detailed passwords and vehicles being used to pick the drugs up.
“These were not one-off transactions.”
Reynolds, 27, was involved in the distribution of more than 12kg of drugs.
Defending Reynolds, Antony O’Donohoe said: “He fell in a drug debt and became addicted to cocaine, and he saw this as easy money.
“He acted on the instructions of Gallagher. There is clear evidence that he was not a significant offender – on one occasion he could not send pictures of the drugs as required because his mother was home.”
Pickering, of Gresford Close in Callands, made handovers of drugs from Wesley Campbell as well as selling them himself and was charged with money laundering and conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
Campbell bought and supplied drugs from the OCG. He owed the OCG £123,000 at one point and was sentenced to 12 years for his part in the conspiracy.
Pickering went to great lengths to avoid detection of his offending during lockdown, on one occasion dropping money off, by using a window company works van, wearing works clothes and having a cover story that he was going to an emergency repair job.
In one message exchange, Campbell said ‘I have six left if you want them’ to which Pickering joked at wanting to deal ‘larger quantities than was available’.
Defending Pickering, Philip Astbury summarised a letter his client had written to the court.
“He explains in it he worked hard for many years, fell short of cash and fell victim to it.
“He has since achieved an enhanced position in the prison within administration.
“The reality of it is he was all be it a significant conspiracy at a low level.”
Lastly co-defendant David Jones, of Harvey Avenue, Newton-le-Willows, faced charges of conspiracy to supply class A drugs and money laundering.
Jones used the EncroChat name ‘fox-bat’ and assisted in couriering drugs and cash for Campbell too.
The 38-year-old was employed with a company who were contracted by the Highways Agency, and he used a company van as his cover to be out during lockdown while he carried out his offending.
Mr McNally said: “He was offered £750 to move a quarter of a kilogram.
“Campbell contacted Jones to say 2kg was coming to him. Evidence showed movements of Allen’s and Jones cell phones and Jones cell was tracked to the delivery of the drugs to Pickering.”
Defending Jones, Christopher Stable said: “This defendant was not highly placed in this conspiracy.
“His role was as courier, and he was acting on direction.”
“He was seduced by the thought of easy money,” he added.
Judge David Swinnerton concluded the hearing, saying: “Each of you have played a significant role.”
Individually sentencing the co-defendants, he addressed Reynolds first.
“You drove, stored and distributed a kilogram of drugs on behalf of the Gallagher brothers.
“You were selfish and greedy and have undoubtedly caused misery, that is what your father said in his letter, and I agree with him.
“You want more money for less work. You do not think about how you will be stood in a dock awaiting your sentencing which will measure in years.”
The 27-year-old was served an eight years and eight months sentence of which he will serve half before being released on licence.
Addressing Pickering, the judge said: “You were connected to 2.3kg of cocaine. You had a works van that you used when you were couriering drugs during lockdown in Covid.
“Your parents and children will suffer because of your incarceration.”
Pickering was served a nine-year sentence of which he will serve half of before being released on licence.
Lastly Judge Swinnerton addressed Jones, saying: “Your role was primarily as a courier of cash. You were trusted, you were useful as you had access to a Highways Agency van which gave you cover to be out during covid.”
Jones was given a nine-year sentence which he will serve half of before being released on licence.