EncroChat dealer drove along M6 but police helicopter was tracking him

A dealer who bragged about lockdown being a boon to his criminal enterprise has been snared by police after they decrypted his messages on EncroChat.

Jay Roberts, of Nelson Road, Ellesmere Port, used the handle ‘Ripebrow’ on the encrypted messaging network. During the Covid-19 lockdown, he used EncroChat to buy and sell cocaine, MDMA, ketamine, and cannabis.

Police found messages sent by Roberts discussing how lockdown could help his criminal activities. The 31-year-old said how the additional restrictions put in place due to the pandemic would put other drug dealing competitors out of pocket and unable to access their supply, meaning the market for these illegal drugs would increase and Roberts could make bigger profits.

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He reportedly used his national suppliers to source large quantities of drugs before redistributing the supply to other EncroChat users.

Roberts was also trusted to accrue multi-kilo drug orders on ‘tick’ (also known as credit) and would at times be in over £100,000 worth of debt with his suppliers.

He began operating at such a high level of criminality that he was in early discussions about importing significant quantities of controlled drugs in to the UK.

According to police, Roberts sourced 19 kilograms of cocaine, three kilograms of MDMA, 1.5 kilograms of ketamine, and 23 kilograms of cannabis between March and June 2020.

At around 1.40pm on November 28 last year, Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras alerted police to a white Mercedes travelling on the M6 that had previously been linked to Roberts.

Jay Roberts, of Nelson Road, Ellesmere Port was jailed for 14 years
Jay Roberts, of Nelson Road, Ellesmere Port was jailed for 14 years -Credit:Cheshire Constabulary

With a police helicopter assisting overhead, police surrounded his car, forcing him to come to a stop, and he was subsequently arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply class A controlled drugs.

After he was arrested and taken into custody for questioning, his home was searched, and significant quantities of cocaine and cannabis were found. A storage unit used by Roberts was also identified and searched. This led to the discovery of a press used to produce ecstasy tablets (MDMA), a cash counting machine and other drug paraphernalia, including dealer lists.

He was charged with an array of drug offences, including conspiracy to supply class A and B drugs and being concerned in the production of a class A drugs. He appeared at Chester Crown Court today, May 3, where he was jailed for 14 years.

Detective Chief Inspector Nick Henderson, of the Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: “We have been relentless in pursuing those who have so far been identified as using the secretive encrypted device in order to commit organised crime, and Roberts is one of many who thought they could operate above the law, but my team were hot on his tail.

“Roberts was a well-established organised criminal and a key player in the large-scale commercial drugs business, supplying substantial amounts of illegal drugs in the Chester and Ellesmere Port areas which he profited from and led to him living a lavish lifestyle.

“He reaped the benefits of his ill-gotten gains while the rest of the country were adhering to lockdown restrictions, but it was always going to catch up with him. Thanks to the work undertaken by my detectives who the analysed the messages, he is now behind bars facing justice.

“This shows that no matter what you think you are doing to cover your tracks, we are one step ahead. We will do everything we can to make sure that each and every individual involved in Serious and Organised Crime pay for the misery that they bring to communities across Cheshire.”

Anyone with information about drug activity in their community is urged to contact Cheshire Police via https://www.cheshire.police.uk/tua/tell-us-about/soh/seen-or-heard/

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