A Warwickshire man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for reselling drugs sourced on the darkweb.
The 31 year old man named Joe Richens, of Leamington, Warwickshire, pleaded guilty to importing and distributing cocaine, cocaine, and money laundering. The Warwickshire Police, said that Richens purchased MDMA and cocaine from darkweb and sold it locally. His vendors were said to be located in the Netherlands.
The police said that investigation lasted two years. The investigation was part of an operation named “Operation Celsius,” they revealed. Customs at Coventry airport intercepted a suspicious package to Richens in 2018, officials opened the package and discovered 7,000 ecstasy pills and 280 grams of cocaine. The drugs were valued at £100,000 using police math.
Richens was linked to 13 drug importations during the two year investigation, including a package with 121 grams of cocaine and another package with 263 grams of MDMA. He was accused of importing and distributing at least 40 kilograms of drugs.
When Richens was arrested, items found include a USB drive, three phones and a hotel key. A search of his hotel room lead to the discovery of a machine used to seal packages, packing supplies, scales and 576 ecstasy pills. Richens had an encrypted phone and USB drive which he refused to decrypt, a conversation was extracted from one phone that revealed Richens purchased bitcoins worth £63,245.
The prosecutions said that Richems made £63,245. through his operation.
Charges Richens pleaded guilty to include:
possession of MDMA with intent to supply;
two counts of trying to fraudulently avoid prohibition on the importation of a class A drug.
Richens was sentenced on July 29, 2020 by Judge Anthony Potter of the Warwickshire Crown Court. Richens was sentenced to 11 years and six months in prison.
A Detective Inspector Richard Brown said: “This result should send a clear message to those who believe they can hide behind the shadow of the dark web. We will use all of the tools available to us to investigate such crime and prevent technology from being used to commit a serious and organized crime.”
MDMA: Warwickshire Police Press Release
The 30th july 2020 press release from the Warwickshire Police reads:
A drug dealer has been sentenced following a two year investigation by Warwickshire Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
Joe Richens, 31, from Leamington, had pleaded guilty to seven charges relating to the importation of Class A drugs, which he purchased from Holland on the dark web, before distributing it throughout the country.
On Wednesday (29 July) at Warwick Crown Court, he was handed two sentences of 11.5 years for two counts of conspiring to fraudulently evade a prohibition on the importation of a Class A drug (MDMA and cocaine).
He was also handed an eight year sentence for offering to supply MDMA, an eight year sentence for offering to supply cocaine and a six year sentence for possession with intent to supply MDMA.
The Judge also gave a two year sentence for a count of conceal/disguise/convert/transfer/remove criminal property.
All of these sentences are to run concurrently.
The investigation, codenamed Operation Celsius, began after the seizure of £100,000 worth of cocaine and MDMA at Coventry Airport in February 2018, which were destined for Richens’ at his work address via a mailbox company.
Officers subsequently discovered that Richens had set up a complex drug supply network and was responsible for a further 13 importations into the country.
He operated using the dark web, sending large amounts of cash to crypto currency brokers, who would in turn provide him with bitcoins, which he then used to purchase large quantities of Class A drugs from Holland.
The investigation into his finances showed that he received hundreds of thousands of pounds into his bank account from the sale of the drugs, and had been actively involved in serious criminal activity since 2012.
Officers will now seek to ensure Richens cannot benefit from the proceeds of his crime through the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA). A hearing has been set for September.
Detective Inspector Richard Brown said: “This result should send a clear message to those who believe they can hide behind the shadow of the dark web. We will use all of the tools available to us to investigate such crime and prevent technology being used to commit serious and organised crime.
“We will continue working to disrupt the distribution of drugs in Warwickshire, ensuring those involved are brought to justice.”
Protect is a campaign being run by ourselves alongside a range of partner agencies to tackle Serious and Organised Crime (SOC).
The broad-ranging operation covers four key areas of activity:
Pursue – prosecuting and disrupting those involved in SOC Prevent – stopping individuals from becoming involved in SOC Protect – increased levels of protection against SOC Prepare – reducing the impact of SOC where it occurs
Issued: CF, Corporate Communications
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