Powdered cocaine concealed in paintings and books has led to two drug dealers being jailed for a total of 19 years between them.
Gavin Calloway and Charles Hodges worked together to import the class A drug into the UK before they then converted it back into solid form and sold it across Kent.
The drug dealers used encrypted phone platform, ‘EncroChat’, to facilitate their criminality, but when the secret messaging service was cracked by authorities in France and The Netherlands in 2020, data from thousands of users across the continent was obtained.
The National Crime Agency provided this data to the relevant authorities, and Kent Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit identified Hodges and Calloway as being users of the encrypted phones.
Calloway, 43, from Herne Bay, was jailed for 10 years while Hodges, 34, from Whitstable, was jailed for nine years.
Both men admitted one charge each of conspiracy to import cocaine and conspiracy to supply cocaine and were jailed at Canterbury Crown Court on Friday 17 September 2021.
As part of the investigation into the use of the encrypted phones officers discovered that the men had imported cocaine before it was supplied to customers in bulk form.
It’s believed that between 1 March and 12 June 2020 a total of 2.95kg of cocaine was imported which would have had a street value of up to £250,000.
Calloway used an encrypted phone under the username of ‘legallemur’, while Hodges’ used the handles ‘minorbuffalo’ and ‘palmvalley’.
As the investigation progressed officers discovered that Calloway would directly liaise with a drug dealer in Thailand before the drugs would be shipped over to the UK concealed in paintings and books.
On 18 May 2020, Calloway sent a message where he confirmed they had ‘loads of addresses lined up’ and he agreed the price of the drugs as being £37,000.
In the days that followed, messages were again exchanged where it was confirmed another consignment was ready to go but a further £40,000 was requested before the drugs would be sent.
Officers also found evidence of conversations where Calloway and Hodges discussed sourcing materials which would allow them to make ‘rocks’ out of the powdered cocaine.
Various investigative strands also reinforced their involvement with the crimes by placing them in the right locations on specific dates and times.
On 6 January 2021 officers carried out a search warrant at an address in Herne Bay, where Calloway was found and arrested.
Officers found 1,915 tablets of class C drug Etizolam, self-seal bags, black rubber gloves, white powder, a bank card and 5g of cocaine.
A warrant was also executed at an address in Sandwich, where police found cash totalling £9,840. The money had been hidden in a bag on top of a wardrobe.
Drugs and paraphernalia were also found inside another bag nearby.
Following this warrant, officers went to a farm in Fox’s Road, Whitstable, where Hodges was arrested. Police believe this was one of the locations used to store the imported drugs.
Following a search of a static caravan belonging to Hodges on the farm, police found white powder in a clear bag, this was later confirmed to be 0.35g of cocaine.
Detective Constable Rebecca Veares of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: ‘Calloway and Hodges went to great lengths to import a large amount of cocaine into the country in order to turn a profit.
‘Many criminals have used Encrochat phones to facilitate their criminality, believing the technology would protect them and allow them to operate more freely, but as shown, authorities have ways of infiltrating the network and gathering the data required.
‘Calloway is a man who dealt with significant criminals across the globe and attended criminal meetings. He recruited Hodges to work with him and both were driven by greed.
‘I have no doubt that had we not discovered what they were up to that they would still be operating in this manner today, so I’m pleased they have been apprehended and are behind bars.’
Detective Constable Rebecca Veares