Drug dealers planned to dress up like key workers to dodge lockdown restrictions

National Crime Agency
Monday 17 May 2021

Operation Venetic: Drug dealers planned to dress up like key workers to dodge lockdown restrictions

Operation Venetic: Drug dealers planned to dress up like key workers to dodge lockdown restrictions
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An organised crime group who planned to dress up as key workers to carry out class A drug deals and launder their cash during the coronavirus lockdown have been sentenced to 33 and a half years in prison.

Officers from the Organised Crime Partnership (OCP), a joint NCA and Metropolitan Police Service unit, launched an investigation last year after their activities came to light through Operation Venetic – the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of encrypted messaging platform EncroChat.

Andrew Doyle, aged 35, from North End Road, Hammersmith, had a previous conviction for drugs and was identified along with three others, through messages on the platform.

Using the alias ‘Neighbourhoodhero’, Doyle was linked to messages that showed he played a leading role in buying and selling cocaine across London.

Messages in April last year showed Doyle discussing the increased risk of being stopped by police whilst lockdown restrictions were in place.

In one message, he asks another Encro user, “Mate, do you have a high vis and stuff for the Van? And like builder clothes? We need to look official in times like this.”

Doyle was speaking with associate Derrick Canning, 50, from Linkfield Road in Isleworth, whose role was to transport the drugs.

In other messages, Doyle mentions that he has a friend working for the NHS who has an NHS pass if he is stopped and “driving through London, old bill are everywhere…pulling people.”

Regular messages were also exchanged with mother and son duo, Catherine and Joe Roche, from Fulham.

Using the handle ‘Diamondsareforever’ Catherine Roche, 63, mainly handled the cash side of the operation and was aided by her 29 year-old son Joe, AKA ‘Cremebrulee’ in cutting and transporting it.

Joe Roche swapped messages regularly with Doyle and joked about clapping for dealers during the height of the first lockdown.

Doyle, and his counterparts were all arrested at their homes in June last year, where nearly 50,000 MDMA pills, cash, a cash counting machine, encrypted phones and Rolex watches were seized.

Today, all four appeared at Kingston Crown Court were they were sentenced to a combined 33 and a half years in prison, after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing.

Matt McMillan, OCP Manager, said: “We believe this group distributed huge amounts of drugs across parts of London and the Home Counties.

“Evidence showed that they plotted to continue their operation during the first and strictest UK lockdown. A risk that didn’t pay off in the end.

“The trade in class A drugs fuels violence and exploitation and today’s sentences are yet another example of the NCA and Met Police working together to protect the public from this threat.”

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