Pictures of a can of Stella Artois and a ham sandwich helped to catch a pair of drug dealers as police foiled their conspiracy by cracking their Encrochat phone lines. 

Lancashire police's Serious and Organised Crime Team were able to prove that Richard Wylie and Richard Whiteside were the owners of the Encrochat handles Somesnail and Peppershirt, and were using these phones to supply drugs across the county. 

Pictures of a can of Stella Artois and a ham sandwich shared on the Encrochat phones helped trap the pair after they were matched to Whiteside’s address in Blackpool.

Lancashire Telegraph: The ham sandwichThe ham sandwich (Image: Lancs Police)

Two other men, Daniel Hindley, 40, and Jamie Finney, 37, are still on the run.

Following a lengthy investigation, Richard Wylie, 36, formerly of The Stables, Thornton Cleveleys, was jailed for six years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of class A cocaine, conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of class A cocaine, conspiracy to transfer and conceal criminal property and being concerned in supplying a controlled drug of class A to others.

Richard Whiteside, 55, formerly of Mickledon Road, Blackpool, was jailed for four years after admitting conspiracy to transfer and conceal criminal property and possessing criminal property.

Lancashire Telegraph: The can of Stella ArtoisThe can of Stella Artois (Image: Lancs Police)

Detective Chief Insp James Edmonds said: “Like many other users of EncroChat, the criminals operating in Lancashire will have mistakenly thought that they could traffic drugs with impunity, under the radar of the police – our successes as part of Op Venetic show how wrong they are.

“We continue to work both with the NCA, the NWROCU, and other forces across the region and the UK to take the fight to criminals and ensure there are no safe spaces in Lancashire for serious and organised criminals, including those who seek to profit from a class A drugs trade which fuels violence and exploitation in our communities.

Lancashire Telegraph: CashCash (Image: Lancs Police)

“This sort of activity is just one aspect of our continued fight to tackle serious and organised crime. I hope this sends a clear message to the public of our determination to rid communities of this sort of criminalisation and to make our streets safer.”

Police still want to speak to two other men, Daniel Hindley, 40, and Jamie Finney, 37, as part of the same investigation. Both men are currently believed to be abroad.

Detectives would ask anyone with information about them to get in touch.

Lancashire Telegraph: Finney and Hindley are on the runFinney and Hindley are on the run (Image: Lancs Police)

Wylie and Whiteside were caught as part of Operation Venetic - the ongoing national fight against organised crime following the takedown of a bespoke encrypted global communication service used exclusively by criminals.

EncroChat was one of the largest providers of encrypted communications and offered a secure mobile phone instant messaging service, but an international law enforcement team cracked the company’s encryption.

The Encrochat servers were taken down in 2020 following an investigation led by the National Crime Agency and Lancashire Constabulary, along with the rest of UK law enforcement, and continues to target those involved.