Dealer who sold drugs worth millions brought down after message about 'best ever' butcher

Dean Cooper, 51, admitted supplying £3.68m of cocaine, £900,000 of heroin and other drugs, including ketamine, amphetamine and 50kg of cannabis resin
-Credit: (Image: NCA)

A major drug dealer has been sentenced to prison after a routine police visit to a butcher's shop led to his downfall. Dean Cooper, 51, was responsible for distributing £3.68 million worth of cocaine, £900,000 worth of heroin, and other substances including ketamine, amphetamine, and 50kg of cannabis resin through his extensive criminal network.

His capture was a result of Operation Venetic, an extensive probe into the EncroChat communication system used by criminals. EncroChat, which was perfectly legal, served 50,000 users globally, with 9,000 in the UK alone, providing them with a platform where they believed their messages were safe from law enforcement scrutiny.

The game changed when investigators breached EncroChat's server in Roubaix, northern France, in April 2020. They distributed fake updates to devices worldwide, which secretly harvested the very data that criminals were desperate to hide, reports the Manchester Evening News.

READ MORE: Mum smuggled £1m worth of drugs and phones into prisons

LATEST: Man in hospital after falling out of car on M4

Cooper, who flooded Manchester with drugs, is just one of the latest offenders caught in the operation's net. His alias on EncroChat was Berrystar.

He exchanged messages about drug transactions under this pseudonym, and National Crime Agency (NCA) officers employed various techniques to confirm that Cooper was indeed Berrystar. A breakthrough came when Cooper sent a message to an associate stating: "You've got to get to this butchers on Tuesday best meat ever had mate."

After sharing the name of the butcher's shop, authorities investigated and discovered Cooper had made a purchase of £34 there, further linking him to the Berrystar identity. Berrystar had also informed a contact about spending £240 on two pairs of trainers. The same expense was evident from Cooper's bank statement when he visited the shoe shop mentioned in their chat.

Police also discovered a pair of Nike Air Max 270 React trainers at Cooper's home that were discussed in one of their separate conversations. Within EncroChat, Berrystar had also shared photos taken inside a residential property - and these images matched the interior of Cooper's home.

In February this year, Cooper, of Atwood Grove, Roby, Liverpool appeared at Liverpool Crown Court where he admitted charges of conspiracy to supply cocaine, heroin, amphetamine, cannabis resin and ketamine to customers in Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield. He also admitted possession of cocaine.

The EncroChat interactions involving Berrystar indicated that Cooper played a part in payments and cash exchanges totalling at least £3.73million. He was jailed for 15 years.

After the sentencing, Mark Morrison, NCA operations manager said: "A lot of very careful work was initially done in this case to resolve the identity behind the Berrystar handle. Cooper's conversations about his butcher and his trainers helped ensure the case was rock solid and he had no choice but to admit his guilt.

"Tackling the Class A drugs threat is a key priority for the NCA in its mission to protect the UK public."