Drug trafficker and right-hand man jailed for more than 20 years after encrypted messages infiltrated
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A businessman who ran a drug trafficking network is to spend more than 12 years behind bars after police infiltrated his encrypted messages.
Christopher Riley appeared at Newcastle Crown Court on Wednesday where he was sentenced for a conspiracy which saw him supplying large quantities of cocaine to local drug dealers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 35-year-old first came to the attention of officers back in 2020 as part of Operation Venetic – an international effort to thwart organised crime.
They soon identified his right-hand man, Darren Johnson, and found that the pair had been responsible for the sale of 15kg of cocaine believed to be worth over half a million pounds as well as large quantities of cannabis between April 1 and May 31, 2020.
A comprehensive file of evidence was produced and on May 12, 2022, officers launched a targeted strike.
Riley was intercepted and arrested by officers at Newcastle Airport after returning from a trip to Dubai.
His home was searched as he was taken into custody – with officers seizing crypto-currency passwords, £3270 in cash and a knuckleduster.
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Trusted Lieutenant Johnson was arrested the same day while driving on Welbeck Road in Byker and his home address also searched.
Officers recovered cannabis worth £16,800 and a small quantity of cocaine as well as a knuckleduster and a detailed debtors list.
The men were charged the following day with conspiring to supply Class A and B drugs.
On Wednesday, July 12 Christopher Riley, of Washington Terrace, North Shields pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs and was jailed for 12-and-a-half-years whileDarren Johnson, 48, of Frosterley Place, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs and was jailed for nine-and-a-half-years.
Speaking after sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Marc Michael said: “This is a great result for the Force, and for our communities, who are sick of the harm being caused by illegal drugs and the organised criminals pushing their sale.
“Riley has made a comfortable living and significant sums of cash by instructing others, like Johnson, to get their hands dirty by selling harmful, addictive drugs to street dealers, which he acquired on a large scale.
“Believing he was above the law, he operated in the shadows using encrypted devices to hide his offending – but however clever these offenders think they are, the law will always catch up with them.
“Thanks to the dedication and professionalism of all officers involved, a detailed case was presented before the courts leaving Riley and Johnson little choice but to admit their guilt.
“The North East is no safe Haven for drug dealers – our Force is committed to tackling illegal supply as part of Operation Sentinel, our continued activity to dismantle organised criminal groups.