Guildford drug dealers sentenced to almost 20 years in prison
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Two Guildford drug dealers are behind bars after being identified as users of international criminal messaging platform.
Richard Andrew Stokes, 39 of Railton Road, Guildford and Charles Courtney Gold, 40 of Henley, Sussex have been sentenced to a combined total of 19 and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to drug dealing offences in Surrey.
The pair are the latest to be sentenced following Operation Venetic, the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of encrypted comms platform Encrochat.
Stokes was first arrested in October 2019 by the Metropolitan Police Service in Barnes. Officers who stopped him for driving erratically located bags of cash in his boot, totalling over £130,000. Searches of a linked address of a luxury flat in Fulham located almost £40,000 more in cash, three rolex watches, high value- designer trainers and several cheap mobile phones. Following his interview, he was released under investigation.
Under investigative work under Operation Venetic, Gold was identified as being a right-hand man of Stokes. An address which Gold was residing at in Sussex was searched on 4th May last year. At this address items recovered included two phones, one identified as an Encrophone. There were also specific sim cards found, known to be used by Encrochat users. Also found were supermarket shopping bags containing over quarter of a million pounds in cash.
A lock up Gold had been using was also identified and searching officers also recovered around three sweet tins containing 439.98 grams of cocaine. He was arrested on suspicion of being concerned with the supply of Class A drugs and released under investigation.
Further collaborative work between Surrey Police’s Serious Organised Crime Unit, The Metropolitan Police, South East Regional Organised Crime Unit and the National Crime Agency highlighted the extent of Stokes’ and Gold criminal activity and the fact they had been working together.
A warrant was carried out of Stoke’s home address in Railton Road, Guildford on 12 April. Further high value items were seized, and he was arrested for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs as well as possession of criminal property.
The pair had been communicating via Encrochat in order to facilitate drug dealing across the South East. Since 2016, the National Crime Agency has been working with international law enforcement agencies to target EncroChat and other encrypted criminal communications platforms by sharing technical expertise and intelligence. This collaboration resulted in partners in France and the Netherlands infiltrating the platform. The data harvested was shared via Europol.The messages uncovered as part of this operation have so far revealed drug deals, money laundering offences and the organisation of gang rival hits.
Stokes and Gold appeared at Guildford Crown Court today (14 October). Stokes had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs as well as two counts of possession of criminal property and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Gold pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and one count of possession of criminal property. He was sentenced to a total of seven years and 6 months.
Detective Constable Harry Robberts said “Stokes was living an extremely lavish and luxury lifestyle off the back of his criminal exploits.
“Stokes spent tens of thousands on luxury watches, trainers, trips to Dubai and Ibiza as well as shopping sprees in Harrods and Christian Dior.
“Both men thought that their use of Encrochat would mean they would go undetected due to the levels of encryption that the service offered.
“Stokes played a key role within a serious organised crime group, distributing drugs including cocaine to vulnerable users. Gold is described as Stoke’s ‘highly entrusted assistant’ who would carry out orders for him and store large amounts of cash.
“Holding these organised criminals to account is a vital part of keeping drugs from getting into the hands of vulnerable people across the UK. This was a large, complex investigation which involved collaborative work from many agencies and Forces in order to protect the public.
“I hope this sentence reassures the public that we are doing everything possible to tackle drug related crime not just in Surrey but across the UK. I also hope that this sentence highlights to those who think a career in crime won’t catch up with them that it absolutely will.”
For more information and for other results relating to Operation Venetic, please visit the NCA website: https://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/