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EncroChat: Cocaine dealers from Tunbridge Wells and Chatham jailed after experts crack their secret messages on 'WhatsApp for criminals'


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A group of drug dealers operating in Kent have been jailed after experts cracked a secret global chat system.

Now two men from Tunbridge Wells have received jail sentences totalling more than 21 years for their part in the racket.

Aaron Duff, left, and William Ferguson, right, both from Tunbridge Wells have been jailed for drugs offences. Picture: Kent Police
Aaron Duff, left, and William Ferguson, right, both from Tunbridge Wells have been jailed for drugs offences. Picture: Kent Police

William Ferguson, 26, of Woodland Road, and Aaron Duff, 29, of Penns Yard, Pembury, admitted their part in a "professional operation" to supply cocaine believed to be in excess of £2 million.

Prosecutor Bridget Todd told Maidstone Crown Court how the two had been involved in supplying Class A drugs between March and June 2020.

Judge David Griffith-Jones QC heard how the dealers had been using "EncroChat" - dubbed a WhatsApp for criminals – to communicate with each other.

But experts cracked the code resulting in a desperate "destroy and delete" message being sent out to all users - when they realised police were onto them.

Ferguson - who went by the nickname "Lustful Beetle" was sent to prison for 13-and-a-half years after admitting a conspiracy to supply drugs and money-laundering offences.

Blocks of drugs found in a garage. Picture: Kent Police
Blocks of drugs found in a garage. Picture: Kent Police

His "trusted and willing lieutenant" Duff - known as "Worldly Beast" - received a total of eight years for similar offences - including two years for a separate drugs offence.

A third man, Ged Shone-Porter, 25, of Marlowe Close, Maldon, was later jailed for 10 years and 10 months.

Officers discovered he was the "independent contractor or go-to" man used by the gang wanting the drugs pressed, labelled and mixed with phenacetin and acetone before distribution

Ms Todd said: "This conspiracy involved multiple kilos of Class A drugs and Class C drugs, amphetamines.

"They communicated by using specialised handsets known as Encrophones and were arrested following an investigation by the National Crime Agency.

Packaged cocaine seized by police. Picture: Kent Police
Packaged cocaine seized by police. Picture: Kent Police

"An analysis of the data recovered showed multiple messages each day."

She told how Ferguson was arrested after police cornered him in a car park in Chelsea and he got into his car and tried to drive away - but was cornered by officers before he could escape.

The court heard how Ferguson dealt with requests and deliveries of drugs, helped by Duff - and sending out messages to buyers "along County Lines".

The judge told them it had been a professional operation to supply commercial quantities of drugs, including cannabis and amphetamines.

"This came to light when the encryption on the so-called Encrochat messages between you and others involved in the drug dealing operation, was cracked...resulting in the 'delete and destroy' message being circulated.

Ged Shone-Porter, from Mandon, left, Billy Robinson, centre, and Nathaniel Green, right, both from Chatham, have been jailed. Picture: Kent Police
Ged Shone-Porter, from Mandon, left, Billy Robinson, centre, and Nathaniel Green, right, both from Chatham, have been jailed. Picture: Kent Police

"The evidence was clear and damning.It revealed that Ferguson was organising and directing the operation and Duff was his willing and trusted lieutenant, making collections and deliveries as required.

Duff later told police he was "in effect a delivery man" earning £1000 a month which he used to part-fund his own drugs habit.

Evidence revealed that at least 18 kilos of cocaine were bought by Ferguson at £37,000 each.

Two other men Nathaniel Green, 36, of Settington Avenue, Chatham and Billy Robinson, 37, of Wordsworth Close, Chatham, also received jail sentences as part of the drugs conspiracy.

Green, of Settington Avenue received a sentence of 10 years and three months after admitting three charges and sidekick Robinson, of Wordsworth Close, was sent to prison for six year and nine months for one offence.

The court heard how police who raided Green's home discovered £34,435 in cash in envelopes with people's names on them; together with five phones and scales.

A further £4080 in cash was discovered at Robinson's address together with a banknote counter and two mobile phones.

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