A Belfast judge warned two men that they faced “substantial prison sentences.” The warning—or threat—was for a lucrative darknet “drug dealing racket.” According to court documents, the men made several hundred thousand dollars. Belfast Crown Court heard the darknet enterprise described as a “sophisticated and commercial operation.”
The “enterprise” consisted of three men.
- Richard Charles Patrick Sinclair, a 32-year-old from Cranagh Road, Coleraine.
- Kyle James Hall from Chamberlain Street in east Belfast.
- And Stephen Rodgers, a 29-year-old from Glynn Park Close, Carrickfergus, Co Antrim.
Two of the men heard the warning for their “substantial” role in the network’s operation. But Rodgers, the third suspect, was a “patsy,” according to his lawyer.
Sinclair used his grandmother’s house as a base of operations. He bought drugs from Holland on the darknet. Then, upon receiving them, would resell the drugs to customers. Investigators pointed out that Sinclair made heavy use of DVD cases. The DVD cases were for darknet customers. But he also sold locally and often with the cases,
Sinclair then pleaded guilty to possessing Class A drugs with intent to supply; Importing a Class A drug; and being involved in the supply of Class A, B and C drugs.
Hall also used his Chamberlain Street home to run a similar darknet drug network. He similarly pleaded guilty to possessing Class A, B and C drugs with intent to supply, and attempted supply of Class A drugs. Additionally, he was charged with possessing criminal property.
The Sinclair raid:
In August 2016, police searched Sinclair’s home. According to Prosecution lawyer Philip Henry, Sinclair was destroying evidence during the search. “Displayed on the computer screen was a list. And it showed details of hundreds of drugs transactions,” the lawyer said.
Investigators found five sealed packages in the house. He previously addressed the packages and prepared them for shipment. Three packages contained DVDs full of MDMA. These packages had the addresses of Sinclair’s main clients.
But the other two packages were Kyle Hall’s. And they contained more than $1,500 each. The prosecutor claimed that the money payment for drug shipments. Police also found 70 grams of MDMA, 310 LSD blotters, and a box with £6,0.00.
Police also found DVD cases, brown cardboard envelopes, and a vacuum sealing device. “Anyone looking at it would think it was a professional business,” the lawyer said.
Additionally, PSNI’s Cyber Crime unit found emails on Sinclair’s computer—emails sent to customers. He signed the emails with his darknet pseudonym ‘S&G’ which stood for ‘Smash and Grab’, according to the court.
“It is clear from the Cyber Crime Unit’s report that Sinclair’s customer base extended across Scotland, England and throughout Northern Ireland. This was a professionally run online based drug distribution business,’’ explained Mr Henry.
The Hall Raid:
Police then searched Hall’s house at the same time. They recovered “a significant quantity of drugs,’’ Mr Henry said.
- 1 kilogram of cannabis;
- 1,000 ecstasy tablets;
- 9,700 diazepam and clonazepam tablets;
- 500 grams of crystal MDMA;
- 1,100 morphine and oxycodone tablets;
- £7,500 in cash;
- Three electronic scales;
- Cardboard envelopes;
- Vacuum packing material;
- Heat-seal bags and postage stamps;
- And finally Package delivery notices and postal receipts;
Police then estimated that the total street value of drugs found in Hall’s property was over £100,000.
The Rodgers raid:
District officers, later on, raided Rodgers’s home at Glenvarlock Street. Law enforcement found a bank account in Rodgers’s name. It then, after analysis, matched bank information found in Hall’s car. During interrogations, Rodgers admitted that he allowed Hall to use his bank account. He knew what Hall needed the account for. That, to police’s knowledge, was the full extent of Rodgers’s involvement.
Mr Henry said:
Sinclair and Hall were in a different sentencing category to Rodgers who was a ‘patsy’. Rodgers’ involvement was limited to allowing his address to be used for the delivery of drugs. And allowing his bank account to be used to deposit money.
Judge Miller QC then ordered the men to return to court on January 6, 2017 for sentencing. He finished and told them they were responsible for “the scourge drugs present in society.”