Six men have been jailed for a total of 133 years after a National Crime Agency investigation uncovered their role in the supply of cocaine and a separate plot to torture and rob a Manchester man.
The crime group – some of whom used encrypted messaging service EncroChat – were all involved in supplying drugs worth almost a quarter of a million pounds.
Five of the men also conspired to commit a robbery in which they planned to tie up the victims at their home and cut off the ear of one of them.
The NCA captured covert recordings of Gary Betts, 57, of Rye Bank Road, Firswood, Manchester, as he told associates that he had a “nice job” that would be “plenty of dough”.
He was joined by Gerard Boyle, 57, of Eleanor Road, Manchester; brothers Chris and John Sammon, aged 32 and 35, of Moorcroft Drive and Dudley Road, Manchester; and Wayne Simmonds, 39, of Oakwood Road, Bricket Wood, Hertfordshire.
The gang believed the victims to be holding a substantial cash sum at their home in Greater Manchester and discussed logistics of the robbery at the office of Boyle – who was the registered director of a plastics recycling firm.
Betts was heard to say: “His dad’s an old man and there’s only one kid in the house…You’ve got to give him a f****** slap …you know what I mean? To tell you where the dough is.”
Simmonds, who used the EncroChat handle ‘peskybull’, agreed to carry out the robbery and discussed having a contact who specialised in impersonating police to gain entry to people’s homes.
Simmonds’ contact had bragged about the emergency blue lights he had fitted to vehicles and was later described by Simmonds during the trial as someone ‘not to be messed with’.
An EncroChat phone was eventually recovered from Simmonds’ property and another man who was involved in the drug conspiracy, 35-year-old William Skillen, from Long Lane in Warrington, was also found to be an EncroChat user, using the handle ‘savagearrow’.
Further conversations between the men indicated they were willing to torture victims to acquire the money.
Betts: “I’d just walk in and I’ll just bang him and just tie him up, and cut his ear off and then tell him…I’ve been down your area and cut people up….Believe me I’ll blowtorch your balls and cut your ear off…Put it this way I know an iron hurts in your chest.”
Betts, Boyle, Simmonds, and the Sammons also discussed drug supply and pricing, including the purchase and sale of around five kilograms of cocaine.
Further searches of both the Manchester business premises where their conversations were recorded, and a property on Sandgate Road, Southampton, linked to Simmonds, led to the discovery of 100 grams of cocaine, drugs paraphernalia including a drugs press and three kilograms of Boric acid.
They were arrested on 11 May last year, along with Skillen. The NCA video above shows the moment Simmonds was arrested.
What happened at court?
The men appeared before Manchester Crown Court and were found guilty of all charges on 3 August, following a seven-week trial.
(Skillen was not involved in the robbery aspect and was arrested for conspiracy to supply cocaine in June 2020.)
NCA Operations Manager Jon Sayers said: “These men were clearly prepared to inflict shocking levels of violence to achieve their criminal ambitions, which included targeting an elderly man and his family.
“They used a legitimate business premises to plan their drug dealing and it became apparent that their links to this abhorrent trade, which causes violence and exploitation in our communities, were serious and organised.
“Simmonds and Skillen also thought using EncroChat would leave them beyond law enforcement’s reach, but they were wrong. We were monitoring the crime group and took action before they could cause any more harm.
“These sentences show that the NCA, working with partners like the Met Police flying squad and Greater Manchester Police, will relentlessly pursue perpetrators and bring them to justice.”