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Featured Image Credit: Merseyside Police
Police identified a drug dealer from a photo he took of himself with a handful of drugs.
Nathan Harding, of Toxteth, Liverpool, and Craig O’Hare, of Roby, Merseyside, were arrested back in June as part of an international operation into major crime.
Detectives were investigating a secret mobile encryption service, commonly known as Encrochat, which gangs use to avoid capture.
According to police, Harding, 30, used the handle 'Magiccider' between April and May 2020, which was then passed on to O’Hare, 33.
Harding, it was heard, then created a new handle, 'Lesserhedge', to conduct his illegal activities.
After analysing their devices, officers found text messages which discussed the sale of cocaine and heroin, which had a combined value of £521,000 ($691,000).
They also saw evidence of the sale of 193 kilos of cannabis, which itself was worth around £1 million ($1.3m).
O'Hare, detectives discovered, was responsible for transporting the drugs and supplied around three kilos of Class As and 10 kilos of cannabis.
Police were able to identify Harding after analysing his fingerprints from a photo he had taken on him holding cannabis.
O'Hare was identified through analysis of personal information shared in messages.
Both men were set to stand trial on Monday 6 December, however, on the day they instead decided to plead guilty due to the mountain of evidence prosecutors had on them.
During a hearing at Liverpool Crown Court for charges of conspiracy to supply £1.5 million ($2m) worth of Class A and B drugs, Harding was sentenced to 18 years and five months in prison while O'Hare was sentenced to six years and six months.
Speaking about the bust, Detective Inspector Mike Dalton of Merseyside Police said it showed the kind of work that police were doing to keep drugs off the streets.
He said: "This latest conviction under Operation Venetic is the latest in a long line of convictions secured thanks to the mountain of evidence our officers have been able to produce.
"In this instance, the evidence was so overwhelming that both men changed their plea to guilty, so they didn’t have to face trial and potentially face even longer behind bars.
"Today’s sentencing is further proof that crime does not pay – we will work with other agencies to stay one step ahead of these criminals, tirelessly pursuing anyone who seeks to break the law and exploit vulnerable people in our communities to line their own pockets."
He went on to say he hoped this acted as a warning to others thinking of doing something similar.
He added: "I hope that this and many other Venetic sentences show that organised crime is no way to earn money - not only will you face losing your liberty but Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings will follow which seek to strip criminals of their ill gotten gains so they can be reinvested into communities."