Raid on stash house led to downfall of one of the most powerful gangsters

A raid of a stash house that saw a dad and son slashed and £1m of cocaine stolen led to the downfall of a ruthless drug gang boss.

Vincent Coggins headed up an organised crime group (OCG) involved in the supply of huge amounts of cocaine and heroin across the UK, with networks from Plymouth to Scotland.

Coggins and his brother Francis built their operation, known in the criminal world as the Huyton Firm, into an international cartel.

The Coggins brothers, Jarvis and a number of their associates were career criminals who moved to the Costa del Sol during the drugs boom of the 1990s to establish an organised syndicate. They smuggled cocaine from South America, through Europe and into the UK.

But on the morning of Saturday, May 23 2020, their empire was targeted in a violent armed robbery was carried out at their stash house on Croxdale Road West, West Derby.

The attack by rival gangsters saw the homeowner and his son severely assaulted and huge amounts of cocaine stolen.

Vincent Coggins and his associates, including right-hand man Robert Jarvis, were determined to find the culprits and get their drugs back. Coggins also expressed a desire to kill them.

The gang wasn't aware that their every move was being monitored by the authorities following a hack of the EncroChat network that would ultimately lead to the gang’s downfall and Vincent Coggins’ arrest and conviction.

Now, the Liverpool ECHO has revealed the story of the gang's downfall and Coggins' arrest and conviction, following the conclusion of Jarvis’ trial at Manchester Crown Court.

Robert Jarvis, 59, from Anfield, is due to be sentenced after he was found guilty at trial for conspiracy to supply class A drugs and conspiracy to commit blackmail.

A court sentencing for Paul Fitzsimmons, a criminal associate who “answered directly to Francis Coggins,” previously heard the OCG’s overall involvement in class A drugs over a three-month period during 2020 was calculated at 148 kg of cocaine and 248 kg of heroin. However, the true amount could be significantly higher.

Using the EncroChat network, Coggins and his associates arranged and carried out multiple deals involving huge sums of drugs and cash. They communicated with other gangs both in Merseyside and further afield, overseeing supply lines. They thought their messages were going secret, but cops had obtained access to EncroChat after French and Dutch authorities had hacked into the network in early April 2020.

Police were now monitoring their every move. Each user was assigned a unique “handle” on the EncroChat network, and through careful monitoring of each message, investigating officers were able to identify the gang members.

Alex Leach KC, a barrister who has prosecuted a number of trials relating to the gang, told Manchester Crown Court during the trial of Jarvis: “The chat reveals that the user of both handles was based in Amsterdam during this period and the evidence strongly suggests that he was Vincent Coggins’ brother Francis.

“He played an important and authoritative role within the group: Jarvis deferred to him on most matters and he often discussed important strategic decisions with his brother Vincent.” Francis Coggins has not yet been apprehended in relation to the investigation.

Messages between the Coggins brothers and Jarvis revealed the gang discussing the sales of “tops” (cocaine) and “botts” (heroin). The EncroChat messages showed the gang discussing international shipments and deals, while also advertising their “belter” product to buyers in Scotland, South Wales and elsewhere. But the gang also shared personal information about each other that helped the police’s investigation.

When the stash house, minded by Paul Glynn, was robbed and 30 kilos of cocaine was stolen, CCTV footage from a neighbour’s home on Croxdale Road West showed the violent attack.

Just before 9.30am, a white van pulled up outside the stash house and four men got out, three wearing dark clothes and balaclavas while a fourth posed as a delivery man. They rushed towards the house where they were met by a stunned dad and son, launching into a savage attack that resulted in Paul Glynn almost losing an arm after it was slashed down to the bone. Images later shared by the police showed huge blood splatters sprayed across the front entrance to the house.

Police received a call from Paul Glynn’s son Kenny which said “these lads just came into the house and started stabbing me dad and there’s blood everywhere”. But by that time, and unknown to the Glynn’s until later, their attackers had left the scene with a bag containing £1m worth of cocaine.

By 7.41pm that night, Vincent Coggins knew the drugs were gone. It was here that the ruthlessness of the Coggins brothers was truly shown. Without a definitive name, Vincent Coggins’ suspicions first fell on Kenny Glynn. Vincent Coggins messaged Jarvis, his eyes and ears on the investigation, “Got to be the son, f*** it, I kill him.”

In the following days Vincent Coggins messaged Earle “M8 can you sort pineapple tonight” - a term used to refer to a hand grenade, while Woodford offered to buy a firearm and ammunition on Vincent Coggins’ behalf.

His target was Brian Maxwell, a professional drug dealer who later used the EncroChat phone network to source weapons including semi-automatic AR-15 rifles and an AK47 to protect himself from attack. Even when presented with potential evidence that Maxwell Jr could not have been involved in the robbery because he had CCTV of him at home all day and advised to leave it until the following day, Vincent Coggins refused.

He messaged Earle “No m8 tonight now got to be done we don’t mess round”. It was only the failure in delivering the grenade to the attacker that halted the proceeding for another day.

Vincent Coggins reported to Earle his intention at approaching Brian Maxwell’s dad, Brian Maxwell Sr, with an ultimatum. Return the drugs or the money, or he would pay. Having monitored the messages, the police took their first steps to disrupt Vincent Coggins’ plans. On May 27 they visited Brian Maxwell Jr’s home and issued him with a threat to life notice, also known as an Osman warning.

Armed police also visited an address linked to Vincent Coggins to issue a disruption notice - a warning not to engage in any criminal activity. Undeterred, he continued to set in motion plans to kill Brian Maxwell Jr, as well as two other men he believed were involved - Michael Eves and Iyobosa ‘Bosa’ Igbinovia. On May 28 Jarvis messaged Vincent Coggins alleged evidence that the pair considered incriminating the three men even further in the robbery.

An EncroChat message at around 2.30pm that day said: “..he told me they were all out together Maxwell boser eves Saturday afternoon til Sunday for anniversary drink…so Maxwell saying he got CCTV of himself not leaving house on Saturday is a f***ing lie”. Later that day Coggins messaged Fitzsimmons saying “they all getting it”.

The Maxwells communicated with Vincent Coggins, Earle and Jarvis through a third party, a man who is still due to appear before the courts so can’t be identified. Fearing an attack on his son was imminent, Maxwell Sr sent a proposal to the gang.

He knew his son had not committed the robbery but understanding the threat said “me solution involves me and me alone paying the bill and then its me that’s been robbed, I’d rather have him than the money…and it wont be in grip coz I haven’t got it any more than he has…then its down to me to find out who done it…any money I’ve got means f*** all if he dead”.

Maxwell Sr offered around £1,360,000 to Vincent Coggins, split into cash and the sale of land and a house. Vincent Coggins accepted the offer. But a chilling message to Earle later the same day showed it was just a temporary peace. “F*** me still going to kill them all but can take time now leave dad alone”, he wrote.

Police disruption continued despite the movements of the gang. Police attended Maxwell Sr’s home and gave him an Osman warning, while Earle was issued a disruption notice. Unnerved by the police attention, Earle appeared to back out. However, Vincent Coggins was undeterred. He wrote back: “Am staying till I’ve got every penny an at least done of one of the c****”. On June 3, Maxwell Sr signed over the money, the land and the house.

With police sniffing around his business, Vincent Coggins asked Woodford to use his police contact, known as "the computer man", to get copies of what was being said about him on the Police National Computer database. The contact told them there were new updates to Vincent Coggins profile, but they had not been able to take a photo. These were arranged through another EncroChat contact, Michael Burns, who used the handle MillionDolla.

Merseyside Police later told the ECHO an anti-corruption team reviewed the messages and an extensive search of force systems in relation to those individuals was carried out to identify if there was any unauthorised access to information in relation to them and to identify any potential suspect. A spokesperson for the force said: "A number of individuals were identified as having had access for a legitimate policing purpose, including staff from other forces, and no corruption was identified."

On June 13 2020, EncroChat administrators sent all users the message that the domain had been compromised and they could no longer guarantee the security of the devices. They advised users to power off and to physically dispose of their devices.

Three days later, Vincent Coggins, Woodford, Earle and Jarvis were all arrested by the police. The Maxwells were arrested several months later. During his court sentencing, Maxwell Jr’s defence said the police operation to disrupt the hand grenade attack “had probably saved his life”.

When the stash house was first robbed, Vincent Coggins messaged Jarvis “no way manks f***er local”, referring to the fact he could not believe a Manchester gang would be brave enough to come down the M56 carry out the raid. However, further examinations of the EncroChat network led investigators to the rival crime group behind the raid.

Salford gangsters Jason and Craig Cox had targeted the stash house in collaboration with Liverpool career criminal Richard Caswell. The “tight knit” Cox crime gang were involved in large scale drug dealing, but in a bid to step up in the underworld, Jason Cox decided to join forces with Caswell, a well-known figure previously linked to a spate of car bombings across the city in 2003 and 2004.

After a number of surveillance trips to scope out the address, they raided the house, making off with £1m of cocaine which Jason Cox split with Caswell. Jason Cox would go on to sell his shares to notorious drug dealer Leon Atkinson - an associate of both police killer Dale Cregan and Merseyside-based suppliers the Cassidy brothers.

In the aftermath of the robbery, Jason Cox said in EncroChat messages how he had got cocaine from “the biggest firm in Liverpool”. But he also realised the threat he now faced. Messages showed he enquired about renting a new flat, and eventually fled with his brother Lee to Spain. Caswell was playing an even more dangerous game.

As Coggins’ firm desperately tried to work out who had ripped them off, they asked him directly if he had information regarding the raid. Caswell played dumb and said he would ask around, but passed on what they had told him to Jason Cox. The fall-out when the identities of the robbers was seismic in the underworld.

Arson attacks at properties linked to the Cox family in Salford were reported to Greater Manchester Police, while Caswell was slashed in HMP Manchester. A spokesperson for the Manchester force said they had issued a number of Osman warnings to the Cox family and their associates, and was working with the prison service after Jason Cox said he would have to “look over his shoulder” for the rest of his life. The Cox brothers, Caswell and “foot soldier” Ben Monks-Gorton, who posed as the delivery driver, were all jailed last year.

Coggins and his associates answered no comment in their interviews. But by this time, the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU), who were investigating the gang, had gathered thousands of messages that tied the Coggins’ operation together. The arrests of Coggins and his potentially deadly associates marked the first EncroChat arrests made by the NWROCU - codenamed Operation SubZero - and the first time the force's EncroChat evidence would have to stand up in court.

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