Belfast Telegraph

Jail for pair who used 'dark web' to run drug rackets

By John Cassidy

Two men have been given prison sentences for running a lucrative "evil trade'' in drugs using the internet's so-called 'dark web'.

Richard Charles Patrick Sinclair (34), of Cranagh Road, Coleraine, Co Londonderry, received a seven year sentence.

The court heard he used a bedroom in his grandmother's house to buy drugs over the internet from Holland, using the crypto-currency bitcoin and then distributed them to customers inside DVD cases.

He pleaded guilty to a number of offences, including possessing class A drugs with intent to supply and importing a class A drug.

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 a number of drug offences.

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 of community service.

He admitted being concerned in the supply of class A, class B and class C drugs and converting criminal property.

Passing sentence at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC told Hall he would serve 33 months in custody and the same on licence after his release.

Judge Miller QC said the 10 months Sinclair and Hall had spent on remand should be taken into account.

The judge said the case showed the "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''.

"This was a sophisticated and commercial operation which generated several hundred thousand pounds in revenue from an evil trade in drugs," he said.

Belfast Crown Court had previously heard that in August 2016, police searched Sinclair's home, which he shared with his grandmother, and 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.''

Inside the property, detectives found "five sealed packages'' with the names and addresses of clients which were stamped and ready to post.

Three contained DVD cases containing packages of MDMA powder. Two of the packages were addressed to Kyle Hall and contained £1,500.

Police suspected that this was payment for drugs that Hall was sending to Sinclair the same day by a courier company containing 3,000 tablets of class A drug. A tin box found under the computer desk containing around 70 grammes of MDMA powder and 310 LSD tablets.

Officers also found a cash box with around £6,000.

During the course of the search, the court heard police also uncovered a large quantity of DVD cases, brown cardboard envelopes, a vacuum sealing device, doctored deodorant containers to allow drugs to be put inside and a box of latex gloves.

Sinclair's computer was examined by the PSNI's Cyber Crime unit, which found emails he had sent to customers. Customers were told to send secure packages to a mail box service in Armagh which would be forwarded to him before he would send out the drugs.

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