Belfast Telegraph

Derry man ran small drugs empire with £200k turnover from his bedroom as an experiment, court hears

By Alan Erwin

A Co Derry man on benefits allegedly ran a small drugs empire with a £200,000 turnover from his bedroom as an experiment, the High Court heard today.

Richard Sinclair arranged deals on the dark web and oversaw a distribution system involving couriers unwittingly delivering MDMA and other substances without ever leaving his home, a judge was told.

Police investigating an operation where some consignments were posted inside jigsaw puzzles also allegedly discovered hundreds of thousands of pounds going into a gambling account.

With Sinclair said to have made full admissions, he was seeking bail to spend time with his elderly grandmother before facing what his lawyer described as inevitable imprisonment.

His application was refused, however, due to the risk of re-offending.

The 33-year-old was arrested after police seized ecstasy pills, herbal cannabis and diazepam tablets worth an estimated £100,000 during separate raids at his home on Cranagh Road, Coleraine and a co-accused's address in east Belfast last August.

Sinclair faces charges of conspiracy to supply and possessing Class A drugs with intent to supply, and transferring criminal property.

Prosecution counsel said police who raided his home discovered him in a bedroom destroying evidence on an encrypted memory stick.

Hundreds of drugs transactions were said to be displayed on a nearby computer when officers entered.

Customer names, email and delivery addresses, types of drugs, quantities, purchases and sales believed to be in excess of £204,000 were retrieved, the court heard.

Two sealed packages addressed to his co-accused contained DVD boxes with £1,500 in cash in each.

Other three parcels had 60g of suspected MDMA powder.

As those searches were being carried out police were alerted to a parcel addressed to Sinclair being left at a courier depot in Belfast.

It contained two jigsaw puzzles with a total of 3,000 MDMA and other psychedelic pills with a potential street value of £40,000, according to the prosecution barrister.

She said the racket involved online buying and selling drugs via the dark net, dispatching them to customers in the post, and using the electronic bitcoin currency.

The court heard claims that Sinclair planned to start selling up to 1,000 ecstasy tablets a week to a select list of around a dozen customers.

Examination of his bank account revealed more than £287,000 had been paid in over the previous three years, with £236,000 going out to a bookmaker's betting account.

"At the time of his arrest he was in receipt of benefits and a carer's allowance (for his grandmother)," the prosecutor added.

Michael Boyd, defending, said Sinclair has accepted that he faces a lengthy prison sentence for what he described as "running a small drugs empire".

"He admitted everything to police, he didn't remain silent or invent some cock and bull story," the barrister said.

"This started off as some sort of experiment and somehow (developed) to the extent that he was receiving significant sums of money for running this operation from a family bedroom in Coleraine, never venturing outside or interacting face to face with anyone."

But refusing the application, Mr Justice Stephens said: "The applicant, whilst on benefits, (allegedly) ran a sophisticated, computer-based operation as a drugs wholesaler with complete disregard for the pain and damage done to individuals and families."

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