Three men from Aylesbury Vale were put behind bars yesterday (Thursday) for masterminding an international online drug dealing business.
Colin McCabe, 39, Robert Price, 36 and Toby Woods, 36, were sentenced at Aylesbury Crown Court following an investigation by the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU).
During the investigation it was found that the group sold drugs such as cocaine, MDMA and ketamine through the dark web under the brand ‘Project4’, earning them over one million pounds.
The operation, which sold packages around the world as far as Australia, was exposed when detectives were able to match DNA of one of those involved to packaging on envelopes containing the drugs.
Buyers would pay for the drugs online with crypto-currency, which would then be transferred into bank accounts and liquidated into cash, allowing the three to lead lavish lifestyles.
The three were jailed for a total of 22 years and eleven months, for offences including conspiracy to supply class A drugs and money laundering.
McCabe, 39, of Candleford Court, Buckingham, was jailed for 12 years after admitting four charges of conspiracy to supply drugs including cocaine, ketamine, cannabis and Diazepam.
Investigators believe he was the leader of the group, organised the business and profited the most from the operation.
Price, 36, of Red Kite View, Calvert, was jailed for nine years and nine months after admitting three charges of conspiracy to supply drugs, including MDMA, ketamine and cannabis.
Second in command, he ran the day-to-day operation of posting the packages around the world, and was found with £24,000 worth of drugs when arrested at his home.
Woods, 36, of Rowland Way, Aylesbury, was jailed for 14 months after admitting entering into or being concerned in the acquisition or control of criminal property.
Woods’ role was to launder the profit from selling the drugs.
After arresting McCabe and searching his address in Buckingham, detectives located evidence of drug dealing, including packing materials, phones containing addresses of buyers, and a bug detector used to locate and disable electronic tracking equipment.
After searching Price’s address, detectives found significant amounts of drugs, including 1.3kg of cannabis resin (street value £13,200), 580g of MDMA (street value £10,800) and various drug dealing paraphernalia such as scales, deal bags and posting equipment.
During sentencing, his honour Judge Francis Sheridan noted the ‘incredibly large scale’ of the group's activity saying: “This was as professional and well organised an operation as I’ve ever encountered.”
He set a hearing date for a proceeds of crime application, which could see the trio stripped of any assets or funds and a future hearing will also determine if McCabe and Price are subject to serious crime prevention orders, to prevent them from potentially re-offending upon release.
Detective Inspector Rob Bryant, from SEROCU's cyber-crime team said: "Although being run from modest locations in the home counties, this was an international drug dealing operation which generated significant sums of money for those involved.
“McCabe was the key player in the organisation and coordinated the buying and selling of the substances and used encryption software and the dark web in an attempt to remain anonymous.
“Unfortunately for McCabe and his accomplices, we have a dedicated team of cyber specialists working tirelessly to identify those looking to utilise the internet for illegal purposes, and we are completely driven to apprehend such criminals and bring them before the courts.”