Samuel McKeag (37) was caught using an encrypted chat network for his crimes
A money launderer who used an encypted chat network to hide his crimes has received a three year sentence in Belfast.
Samuel McKeag (37) was sentenced at Laganside Crown Court on Thursday following an investigation led by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Half his sentence will be served in custody and the rest on licence as he pleaded guilty to a number of offences including conspiracy to possess a Class A controlled drug with intent to supply, possessing criminal property, transferring criminal property and possessing counterfeit currency.
The sentencing is the first in Northern Ireland to result directly from Operation Venetic, led by the NCA.
This was part of the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of the EncroChat netwoek in 2020.
The encrypted communication channel was used by criminals to plan crimes such as importing drugs and moving cash.
Detective Inspector McCamley from the Police Service of Northern Ireland added: “McKeag was part of an organised crime gang involved in the supply of Class A and Class B controlled drugs, and involved in laundering hundreds of thousands of pounds. This was done through EncroChat.
"This investigation, and the subsequent sentencing, is a fallout from Operation Venetic.
“Throughout the investigation, we worked closely with partners, including the NCA and prosecutors from the Public Prosecution Service.”
He added: “It’s thanks to such collaborative efforts, backed up the digital forensic evidence recovered by detectives from the Police Service's Cyber Crime Centre, that we are able to arrest and subsequently bring McKeag before court. In fact, today’s sentencing is the first ever in Northern Ireland to result directly from the national-led operation.
"This is an example of our ongoing commitment to bring those involved in criminal activity to justice. Working alongside our partner agencies, we will continue to disrupt the movements and activities of organised crime gangs, who bring nothing but harm to local communities.”