Birthday messages helped cops bring down digital drug dealer

Written by Sam Trendall on 25 August 2021 in News
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User of encrypted messaging service sentenced to 10 years in prison

 

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A drug dealer that used an encrypted messaging service to sell his wares was brought to book by officers who corroborated his real identity after he referred to his birthday in digital exchanges.

A subscriber to the Encrochat messaging tool with the moniker Sleeyak used the platform to tell other users he could provide up to 20kg of cocaine each week, according to the National Crime Agency. The possible laundering of £37,000 was also discussed.

Officers from the Organised Crime Partnership, operated by the NCA in collaboration with London’s Metropolitan Police Service, accessed more than 1,000 messages sent by Sleeyak and 22 other users of EncroChat – a service that was widely used by organised crime groups before it was taken down last year after being infiltrated by officers during a cross-European law-enforcement operation.


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As part of Operation Venetic, the UK’s response to the takedown of EncroChat, a device used to send messages was found to belong to Lee Broughton, a 40-year-old from Epsom in Surrey. This attribution was confirmed by references in messages sent the day after the user’s birthday last year – which matched Lee Broughton’s: 10 April.

Broughton was arrested on 31 March. A month later he pleaded guilty to supplying cocaine at Kingston Crown Court and, last week, he was sentenced to 10 years in prions.

His latest conviction is his 15th, joining a list stretching back 24 years that includes three other custodial terms, totalling five and a half years, for offences related to the supply of cocaine. 

Detective chief inspector Mark Brookes, head of the Organised Crime Partnership, said: “Disrupting organised criminals and their wider networks is a crucial part of preventing class A drugs from reaching streets in the UK. “Broughton is a career drug supplier who for decades has sought to profit from a trade that fuels violence, misery and destroys the fabric of society. He attempted to use encrypted technology to evade detection, but we in UK law enforcement are determined to prevent criminals from operating with impunity.”

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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