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#Encrochat: The drug dealers leading double lives - exposed by their texts




Criminals thought the expensive phones allowed them to deal drugs and commit offences with impunity. But over the past few months, dozens of them have faced justice after the messages they thought were secret became very public.


The EncroChat network, described as 'WhatsApp for criminals', was successfully hacked by law enforcement in France and the Netherlands. Over a three month period in 2020, police were able to access messages sent by EncroChat users and gain a never before seen insight into the activities of the criminal underworld.


The messages were then distributed to police in the UK, who acted on crucial intelligence to lock up those responsible. Some have been convicted on the strength of those messages alone.


Messages recovered from EncroChat linked McFadden to 23 kilos of of the class A drug, as well as a further kilo of heroin. He also handled more than £300,000 for crime bosses.


Despite living in 'constrained' circumstances, McFadden, 47, from Stockport, had a genuine Cartier watch worth £9,450 and numerous pairs of trainers. The shoes were initially thought to be designer, but an investigation revealed they all were counterfeit apart from a genuine pair of Balenciaga trainers worth £700.


After being arrested, McFadden was overheard in a police station telling a friend on the phone that officers had 'taken all my trainers and everything'. Earlier this month McFadden was jailed for eight years.


He had a cocaine addiction himself and quickly became 'up to his neck' in the operation. The gang dealt in 'very large quantities' of cocaine, cannabis and ketamine throughout Greater Manchester and Lancashire.


Prosecutors said Heald could be linked to 2.2 kilos of cocaine, more than a kilo of cannabis and 17 kilos of ketamine. Heald was described as a 'trusted lieutenant' of Big Harry Potter and was in almost daily contact with him.


He claimed he was being paid between £150 and £200 for each delivery he made. In February, Heald, 34, from Salford, was jailed for seven years and three months.


EncroChat messages revealed that 'at the very least' he was involved in a plot to import 84.5 kilos of cocaine and 59 kilos of heroin. In messages Loftus also said he'd 'pass out firearms if needed' after being told there was 'friction' on an estate in north Manchester.


Loftus, 38, from Bury, was jailed for 22 years. "No doubt you believed that messaging behind the encryption afforded by your phones meant you were safe from apprehension," Judge Alan Conrad QC said.



 

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