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#Encrochat Blakelaw drug gang member known as 'Lucky Penny' must pay back

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A drug gang member known as "Lucky Penny" lived up the nickname after being ordered to pay back just £1 of the £67,000 he made from his crimes.

Christopher Finlay's good fortune deserted him when encrypted underworld chats were infiltrated by police and his role as a trusted courier and warehouser was revealed. He was jailed for seven-and-a-half years earlier this year after a court heard he was paid thousands to deliver multiple kilos of cocaine and heroin.

Now his case has been brought back before Newcastle Crown Court under the Proceeds of Crime Act as prosecutors sought to claw back his ill-gotten gains. But despite benefitting to the tune of £67,300, he must pay back just a nominal £1 because he has no available assets.

We reported in March how Finlay was a trusted courier and warehouser who was paid £47,000 for delivering class A drugs. He was caught after police gained access to EncroChat, which criminals believed they could talk to each other securely on until police gained access in 2020. It was on there that he was using the moniker Lucky Penny.

When Finlay was pulled over by police, he was found with two kilos of cocaine in a secret compartment of specially adapted vehicle. Police also found a tick list hidden in a curtain pole and deployed a handwriting expert to show he was responsible for that. The list showed he had been involved in the supply, warehousing and delivery of 18 kilos of heroin and 114 kilos of cocaine.

Jessica Slaughter, prosecuting, told Newcastle Crown Court at the sentencing hearing earlier this year: "The phone evidence shows he worked for at least two individuals and distributed multiple kilos of cocaine and heroin and had a role forwarding sums of cash and it would have been large quantities of cash.

"He was clearly been managed and controlled by others but he is not a simple courier. He had a significant understanding of the operation in order to be involved in these large quantities."

Finlay was sentenced for the seizure of the two kilos of cocaine in 2020 and got four years and eight months for possession with intent to supply but was subsequently charged with being involved in the wider conspiracy.

Thomas Schofield, defending, said: "He had served his sentence then been faced with a fresh sentencing exercise which was known at the original sentencing exercise. He was due for release from the earlier sentence in September last year but couldn't be released because he was on remand for the conspiracy indictment.

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