Two men have been handed sentences totalling 12 and a half years for running a lucrative and ‘evil trade’ in drugs which involved the use of the internet’s ‘dark web’.
Richard Charles Patrick Sinclair (34), of Cranagh Road, Coleraine, was handed down a seven year sentence after he used a bedroom in his grandmother’s house to buy drugs over the internet from Holland using the online currency ‘bitcoins’ and then distributed them to customers inside DVD cases.
Sinclair pleaded guilty to possesing Class A drugs with intent to supply, importing a Class A drug, being concerned in the supply of Class A, Class B and Class C drugs, and converting criminal property.
Kyle James Hall (26), received a five year sentence after he used his Chamberlain Street home in east Belfast where he lived with his partner and their infant child to run his own similar online drugs distribution network.
Hall pleaded guilty to possessing Class A, Class B and Class C drugs with intent to supply, attempted supply of Class A drugs and possessing criminal property.
A third co-accused, Stephen Rodgers (29), of Glynn Park Close, Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, who was described as a ‘patsy’ in the drugs operation, received 240 hours community service.
He pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of Class A, Class B and Class C drug and converting criminal property.
Passing sentence today at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC told Rodgers: “Be under no illusion that community service order is a soft option.
“If you breach this order you will be brought back to court and a direct alternative of immediate custody will be imposed.’’
Sinclair was told that he would spend 42 months in custody and 42 months on supervised licence following his release.
The judge described Sinclar as ‘an intelligent man’.
“The organisational skill in setting up this drugs operation is clear evidence of that,” he said.
Accepting his remorse and efforts to tackle his drug addiction, Judge Miller QC described as a ‘ludicrous suggestion’ put forward by Sinclair to a probation officer that the imported drugs were for his ‘own personal use.’
Hall was told by the judge that he would serve 33 months in custody and the same on licence after his release.
The judge added that the 10 months Sinclair and Hall had spent on remand should be taken into account of their respective jail sentences.
Judge Miller QC said the case against the three accused was one of ‘use of the ‘dark web’ for the purpose of a range of drugs in significant wholesale quantities which were distributed to a ‘large online customer base.’
He added: “This was a sophisticated and commercial operation which generated several hundred thousand pounds in revenue from an evil trade in drugs.”
Belfast crown court had previously heard that in August 2016 police searched Sinclair’s home he shared with his grandmother and during the raid officers found him in his bedroom ‘in the process of destroying evidence on his computer.’
Prosecution lawyer Philip Henry told the court: “Displayed on the computer screen was a list showing details of hundreds of drugs transactions.”
“A precise calculation of the sales proceeds is difficult to assess accurately, but it is believed to be in excess of £200,000,” said Mr Henry.
The same day, police also searched Hall’s house at Chamberlain Street. He was not initially at home and his partner and one year old daughter were present before he returned to the property later.
Police recovered “a significant quantity of drugs’’ which included one kilo of herbal cannabis; 1,000 tablets inside a parcel, 9,700 diazapem and clonazepam tablets; around 500 grammes of crystal MDMA; and 1,100 morphine and oxycodone tablets.
Other items seized included documentation relating to a bank account in the name of co-accused Stephen Rodgers; £7,500 in cash; electronic scales; ‘bulking powders’ were found in the hotpress; a large quantity of packaging material including cardboard envelopes, vacuum packing material, heat-seal bags and postage stamps; package delivery notices and postal receipts; and a number of rubber gloves.
Police estimated that the total street value of the drugs found in Hall’s property was over £100,000.
Mr Henry asked for a forfeiture order in respect of a caravan Hall had bought and was left at a caravan park in Portrush.
He said Sinclair and Hall were in a different sentencing categroy to Rodgers who he described as a ‘patsy’.
The prosecutionn lawyer said Rodgers’ involvement was ‘limited to allowing his address to be used for the delivery of drugs at the request of Hall’ along with allowing his bank account to be used to deposit money.