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#Encrochat Gang hid crime in a farmhouse with a Rottweiler on the door

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Darren Gray acted as the bookkeeper for a lucrative organised crime group headed up by Jordan Talbot. Both men sought to head for the continent via the Channel Tunnel when their secret dealings over encrypted communications platform EncroChat were exposed - but while one was halted in his tracks at the border, the other successfully made it to Europe and was able to evade justice until last week, when he was handed a lengthy prison sentence.

The ECHO can now reveal that Gray, of Three Butt Lane in West Derby, and his brothers Lee and Thomas were previously locked up in 2013 after setting up and operating a multi-million pound drugs factory in a farmhouse in North Wales. They were among seven men locked up for a combined total of 23 years over the "large scale operation", having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce cannabis.

Darren was described as the "ringleader", with he and Lee having also admitted charges concerning a stash of £54,660 ill-gotten cash found in the latter's Saab on May 9 this year. The "professional and commercial" operation came to be after Martin Bristow, who was said to have played a "leading role in the organised crime gang", rented the Bwlch-y-Gynog farmhouse in Saron, Denbighshire, from his cousin.

The isolated location was deliberately chosen to minimise the risk of being detected, and the gang kept a Rottweiler at the property as added protection.

When police raided the farm in November 2013, they uncovered a crop of 295 plants with a potential yield of more than 14kg of cannabis - worth between £138,000 and £276,000.

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