Three men sentenced after a drugs supply gang that hid cocaine in the Nailsworth countryside
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A group of three men have today been jailed after they were involved in a drugs gang that moved almost half a million pounds worth of wholesale cocaine, cannabis and ketamine through Gloucestershire.
The men had an unlikely hiding place for their stash and buried their drugs in protein powder pots in the Stroud countryside.
Two Gloucestershire men were involved in the supply of Class A drugs from their makeshift 'music studio' in sleepy Nailsworth. The Constabulary set a covert team to monitor the men and gather evidence before arresting them and seizing a large amount of cocaine and cash.
The men appeared at Gloucester Crown Court today, Wednesday 8 December, following the surveillance-led investigation which was run by Gloucestershire Constabulary's Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
Charles Bryan, aged 23 and of Merretts Mill, Nailsworth, received a total of 10 years, Harry Blackwell-Smith, aged 27 and of Ragnal Lane, Nailsworth, received a total of eight years and courier John Jose, aged 20 and of Shipton Road, Woodstock, received a total three years and four months in prison.
The investigation saw officers conduct a covert operation which allowed them to gather evidence against the offenders to prove their involvement in supplying kilos of class A and B drugs.
The drugs supply group were initially detected after the EncroChat feature was being used to discuss and organise their crimes. These phones were supposed to be encrypted to protect the criminals and were sold to them as 'police proof'. Operation Venetic was the name given to the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of the encrypted communications platform EncroChat.
The National Crime Agency then gave Gloucestershire Constabulary a pack of communications believed to be coming from Gloucestershire. The Serious and Organised Crime team set about a lengthy, covert investigation, named Operation Seabrooke, to identify and monitor those using the phones.
The messages via the encrypted chat were explicit in discussing large qualities of drugs and the practicalities of moving and delivering them. These messages went between the handles TallTender and ShinyGoose, who were in fact two Stroud based men, Bryan and Blackwell Smith.
The sentencing Judge heard how Bryan, and Blackwell-Smith, oversaw the supply of large amounts of high quality crack cocaine among other drugs.
Bryan, who the Judge said had a leading role in the organisation, then worked with a courier, Jose, from the Oxford area to move the drugs in and out of the county.
Detective Inspector Matt Phillips, who led the investigation said: "During covert observations of Bryan it was noted his unusual method of storing his drugs and cash. He would keep it in fields and woodland behind his home address. Bryan had buried an empty Whey Protein barrel in the ground and marked it with branches over the top and he kept thousands of pounds in drugs and cash in the barrel in the ground.
“This operation shows that despite the challenges the Constabulary faced during the Covid-19 pandemic we remained committed to targeting and catching serious criminals who do the most harm to our communities.
"Despite the fact Bryan and Blackwell-Smith appeared to have taken every available precaution to try and avoid getting caught - this result shows that no-one is above the law. If you deal drugs on this scale we will find you and we will convict you.
“I would also like to thank our partner agencies who assisted with this investigation, including the National Crime Agency and the Crown Prosecution Service."
If anyone has concerns or information about the supply of controlled drugs please call 101 or contact Crime Stoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.