Belfast Telegraph

Man ran £200k drugs empire from his bedroom

By Alan Erwin

A man on benefits ran a drugs empire with a £200,000 turnover from his bedroom as an experiment, a court has heard.

Richard Sinclair, from Coleraine, arranged deals on the dark web and set up a distribution system in which couriers unwittingly delivered drugs, all without leaving his home.

Police investigating an operation in which some consignments were hidden in jigsaw puzzles also discovered hundreds of thousands of pounds going into a gambling account.

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

His application was refused, however, after authorities raised fears he would reoffend.

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

Sinclair was charged with conspiracy to supply and possessing Class A drugs with intent to supply, and transferring criminal property.

Prosecution counsel said the officers 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 detectives entered the premises.

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.

Three other packages had 60g of suspected MDMA powder.

As the 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 of drugs via the dark net with the electronic currency Bitcoin. The drugs were then sent in the post.

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 said.

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 added.

"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."

Refusing the bail application, Mr Justice Stephens said: "The applicant, whilst on benefits, 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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