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#Encrochat: Major drug dealer secretly operated under the pseudonym 'FrostFortress', arrested

A cocaine "broker" was involved in the supply of more than £400,000 of drugs on behalf of a mysterious importer known only as "Jurgen".

John Cass, from Kirkby, secretly operated under the pseudonym FrostFortress on the encrypted communications platform EncroChat. The "devoted" dad - who "thought he was invincible" - was today locked up for 10 years after being unmasked when his fingerprints were identified via a photograph.

Liverpool Crown Court heard this afternoon, Friday, that the 34-year-old acted as a "broker and intermediary sourcing large quantities of recently imported class A and B drugs". Cass, of Corbet Close, had 64 other handles stored in the contact list of his Encro phone, with messages exchanged with 22 of them.

In particular, he had liaised with the handle JurgenSixNineteen - described as an "upstream supplier operating outside of the UK". The first-time offender took possession of 10kg of cocaine on his behalf, drugs with a wholesale value of between £365,000 and £425,000.

Cass received commission of approximately £500 per kilo for onward sale of the illicit substances. On April 8 2020, JurgenSixNineteen informed the married man and father-of-two, including a nine-month-old baby, that he had 60kg of cocaine arriving in the UK over the coming weeks.

The "close and trusted associate immediately offered to handle the portion bound for Liverpool". Cass also "employed" a user with the handle OctoRed to count cash on his behalf.

On April 29 2020, the pair "discussed the availability of a gun with no slugs".

The defendant asked for a picture of the firearm, but stated he needed to "ask Josh when I get home as he knows all about them".

The weapon was identified from a photograph as being a German-made Walther PK380 self-loading pistol, which was being held by a gloved hand in the image. Cass, who appeared in court via video link to HMP Altcourse, was linked to the FrostFortress handle after being pulled over by police in October last year having been "driving erratically" on Whitefield Drive in Kirkby.

His Volkswagen Golf "pulled out in front of the police" before stopping at a BP garage, where the driver began checking his tyres. A total of £5,625 in cash was then discovered in the glovebox, with a further £388.79 found on his person.

His fingerprints were taken, and were found to match those seen on a picture sent by the FrostFortress handle - the messaging service having been compromised by law enforcement during 2020. Investigations found evidence that Cass was involved in the supply of 14kg of cocaine and 58.5kg of cannabis, as well as the laundering of £147,000.

Ged Doran, defending, told the court: "He's reached the age of 34 without any convictions, cautions or warnings. It's regrettable that he's behaved in the way he has now admitted.

"He is at pains to acknowledge that it's nobody's responsibility but his own. He demonstrates through this awareness and realisation a true sense of remorse.

"He doesn't seek to shy away from acknowledging his responsibility and regret for the impact on his family. He accepts that he was a close associate of JurgenSixNineteen in the expectation of financial gain.

"He took instructions and acted on behalf of JurgenSixNineteen. He became involved deeply, quickly and unexpectedly.

"He will not make irrational, irresponsible decisions motivated by money in the future. He has real prospects for the future as far as he and his family is concerned."

Cass - who has no previous convictions - admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and cannabis, money laundering and possession of criminal property during an earlier hearing. Family members cried in the public gallery as the "caring, considerate person" was locked up.

Sentencing, Judge David Aubrey said: "You are a man of hitherto good character prior to the commission of these offences, a man who now has two young children, a man described as a devoted father and a caring and considerate man. It's a tragedy that you are now to be sentenced in respect of these offences, whereby you were trading in the desperation and destitution of others.

"Why you became involved in such matters will be a matter only you know. This court has no doubt whatsoever that at the time you were driven by the wish to receive significant financial advantage.

"You thought you were invincible and protected by the phone in your hand. That has proved to be your downfall."

Cass could be ordered to pay back his ill-gotten gains later this year under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Merseyside Police's Detective Inspector Peter McCullough said following his sentencing: "Evidence showed that Cass was a major drug dealer and dealt with huge quantities of cocaine and cannabis which flooded the streets.

"He had flown under the radar of police, and it was thanks to the vigilance of officers on patrol that he came to our attention when they spotted his erratic driving. We welcome today’s sentencing, which highlights another successful conviction under Operation Venetic in our fight against organised crime - preventing Cass from flooding the streets with drugs.

"We are continuing to expose criminals who thought they could evade detection by using the encrypted devices. I hope this sends a clear message that we’ll persist in our pursuit to get them behind bars and will leave no stone unturned."



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