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Police catch druglord after he sends grinning mugshot to gangsters

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Atkinson posted this grinning photo from his garden during the summer of 2020 (Picture: SWNS/ Greater Manchester Police)

The head of a cocaine ring has been caught thanks to a picture that he sent to other gangsters.

Leon Atkinson sent the image of himself to an encrypted group chat with fellow criminals using names like Carrothorn, Maidenbear, Mistersmallhead, Festiveape and Shaggyfarmer.

Thanks to that picture of him drinking beer in his garden, five other people in the £9 million operation were identified in a three month surveillance sting.

Abdul Ghafar, 46, transferred 4kg of coke and at least £6.5 million in cash.

Adam Marsden, 37, and Nathan Powell, 31, sourced and supplied more than 40kg of class-A drugs between them.

Meanwhile Romiz Ahmed, 39, laundered at least £1.9 million in cash.

Four of the five men captured during raids were given sentences totalling almost 40 years on Monday and Tuesday.

Atkinson, Marsden and Ghafar all admitted conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and conspiracy to transfer criminal property.

They received jail terms between eight and 15 years when they were brought before a judge at Manchester Crown Court.

Ahmed was also jailed for six years after being found guilty of conspiracy to transfer criminal property and being concerned in an arrangement which facilitates the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property.

The crackdown was part of Operation Venetic, which has targeted criminals using the EncroChat messenger and is the UK’s biggest ever law enforcement operation.

So far in Greater Manchester, more than £2.5 million in cash has been seized, as well as nearly a dozen firearms and at least 1,100 rounds of ammunition.

Atkinson revealed himself by putting his picture in the otherwise-encrypted chat (Picture: Universal News And Sport Scotland)
Four of the five men captured during raids were given sentences totalling almost 40 years on Monday and Tuesday (Picture: Greater Manchester Police/SWNS)

Police confirmed 12kg of Class A and 25kg of Class B drugs, and more than £300,000 of assets including luxury jewellery and vehicles had also been taken off the street.

Well over 200 people have been detained by GMP since the launch of Operation Venetic by the National Crime Agency in July 2020.

More than 150 of those have subsequently been charged for a range of drug, firearms and money-laundering offences.

Detective inspector Roger Smethurst, from the Serious and Organised Crime Group, said: ‘This was an extremely sophisticated drugs gang that effectively distributed mass quantities of cocaine across the north-west.

‘They had no shame in profiting from flooding communities not just with illicit substances but also with the misery, violence and deprivation that come with it.

‘Some of the individuals sentenced here are some of the higher-level organised criminals that operate in Greater Manchester, and again demonstrate the unprecedented damage we as law enforcement are being able to inflict on multi-million-pound gangs as a result of EncroChat.

‘It is clear no criminal is untouchable, and no unscrupulous individual is safe from detection.

‘Organised crime is one of our top priorities at GMP and we continue to do all we can to rid our streets of drugs, gangs and violence that tear communities apart.’

Police said: ‘We recovered an image of Atkinson drinking beer in his garden during the Covid lockdown.

‘[It] was sent from his device to a leading member of another drugs gang, which prompted confirmation that he was behind the nicknames Carrothorn/Maidenbear and thus heading the drug conspiracy.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected]

For more stories like this, check our news page.

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Leon Atkinson, Adam Marsden, Romiz Ahmed, and Abdul Ghafar. See SWNS story SWLEgrin. Four men involved in an organised crime group responsible for the supply of substantial amounts of class A drugs have been jailed for almost four decades after being exposed by the takedown of EncroChat. Manchester Crown Court heard how the gang ? spearheaded by Leon Atkinson (41) ? had been involved in the transferring of over ?9million in just a three-month period between March and June. Detectives meticulously trawled through thousands of lines of chat sent between four of the group on the encrypted communications network, that was smashed by law enforcement agencies in the summer of 2020 prompting the UK?s largest ever law enforcement operation ? codenamed Venetic.

Atkinson posted this grinning photo from his garden during the summer of 2020 (Picture: SWNS/ Greater Manchester Police)

The head of a cocaine ring has been caught thanks to a picture that he sent to other gangsters.

Leon Atkinson sent the image of himself to an encrypted group chat with fellow criminals using names like Carrothorn, Maidenbear, Mistersmallhead, Festiveape and Shaggyfarmer.

Thanks to that picture of him drinking beer in his garden, five other people in the £9 million operation were identified in a three month surveillance sting.

Abdul Ghafar, 46, transferred 4kg of coke and at least £6.5 million in cash.

Adam Marsden, 37, and Nathan Powell, 31, sourced and supplied more than 40kg of class-A drugs between them.

Meanwhile Romiz Ahmed, 39, laundered at least £1.9 million in cash.

Four of the five men captured during raids were given sentences totalling almost 40 years on Monday and Tuesday.

Atkinson, Marsden and Ghafar all admitted conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and conspiracy to transfer criminal property.

They received jail terms between eight and 15 years when they were brought before a judge at Manchester Crown Court.

Ahmed was also jailed for six years after being found guilty of conspiracy to transfer criminal property and being concerned in an arrangement which facilitates the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property.

The crackdown was part of Operation Venetic, which has targeted criminals using the EncroChat messenger and is the UK’s biggest ever law enforcement operation.

So far in Greater Manchester, more than £2.5 million in cash has been seized, as well as nearly a dozen firearms and at least 1,100 rounds of ammunition.

Atkinson revealed himself by putting his picture in the otherwise-encrypted chat (Picture: Universal News And Sport Scotland)
Four of the five men captured during raids were given sentences totalling almost 40 years on Monday and Tuesday (Picture: Greater Manchester Police/SWNS)

Police confirmed 12kg of Class A and 25kg of Class B drugs, and more than £300,000 of assets including luxury jewellery and vehicles had also been taken off the street.

Well over 200 people have been detained by GMP since the launch of Operation Venetic by the National Crime Agency in July 2020.

More than 150 of those have subsequently been charged for a range of drug, firearms and money-laundering offences.

Detective inspector Roger Smethurst, from the Serious and Organised Crime Group, said: ‘This was an extremely sophisticated drugs gang that effectively distributed mass quantities of cocaine across the north-west.

‘They had no shame in profiting from flooding communities not just with illicit substances but also with the misery, violence and deprivation that come with it.

‘Some of the individuals sentenced here are some of the higher-level organised criminals that operate in Greater Manchester, and again demonstrate the unprecedented damage we as law enforcement are being able to inflict on multi-million-pound gangs as a result of EncroChat.

‘It is clear no criminal is untouchable, and no unscrupulous individual is safe from detection.

‘Organised crime is one of our top priorities at GMP and we continue to do all we can to rid our streets of drugs, gangs and violence that tear communities apart.’

Police said: ‘We recovered an image of Atkinson drinking beer in his garden during the Covid lockdown.

‘[It] was sent from his device to a leading member of another drugs gang, which prompted confirmation that he was behind the nicknames Carrothorn/Maidenbear and thus heading the drug conspiracy.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected]

For more stories like this, check our news page.

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