Gang wanted to ‘hit the jackpot’ but got caught in EncroChat op

Three men who wanted to “hit the jackpot” in a drug smuggling plot were caught in an EncroChat operation. An investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA) uncovered the plot by three men to use a legitimate removal firm to transport GBP4.5m of cocaine, heroin and MDMA sealed in fish tanks. Mark Youell, 64, Alfred Rumbold, 65, and removal driver Brian Wright, 73, all from the south of England, tried to import around 55 kilos of class A drugs across spring and summer 2020.

:Family release new pictures of Ava White as murder probe continues However, officers watched as the men had a series of secretive meetings with a Merseyside -based organised crime group which wanted to import class A drugs utilising Rolls Royce-driving Wright’s legitimate removals company. Covert listening devices deployed by the NCA picked up a conversation during a meeting at a cafe in Kent in July 2020 where they were heard discussing border controls.

Youell told Rumbold and Wright: “We’re gonna hit the jackpot” we’re going to make “f*** mega dough”. Wright carried out a ‘dummy run’ taking his lorry out to The Netherlands. He made a series of notes around border checks and security on his phone as he returned.

The following week Wright made the run for real, collecting the drugs, which had been sealed inside fish tanks.

Mark Youell, 64, Alfred Rumbold, 65, and removal driver Brian Wright, 73.

However, as part of a joint operation involving the NCA and Dutch law enforcement, the truck was raided just outside Utrecht. Wright, who was sleeping inside, was arrested. Dutch police recovered 20.5 kilos of heroin, 32 kilos of cocaine and three kilos of MDMA, which combined would have had a UK street value of around GBP4.5m.

At the same time the NCA arrested Youell and Rumbold at their home addresses, seizing a number of phones including EncroChat and Sky ECC encrypted devices. EncroChat messages attributed to Rumbold by the NCA as part of Operation Venetic – the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of the platform – showed he was discussing with numerous criminals the potential to move drugs across Europe using Wright’s firm. At trial, both Youell and Rumbold denied drug importation charges, claiming they had only been seeking to smuggle alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco and cannabis.

Meanwhile Wright, who was extradited back to the UK from the Netherlands, denied any knowledge of the drugs, claiming he was just transporting furniture. However a jury at Isleworth Crown Court didn’t believe them and found all three men guilty of conspiring to import class A drugs. A judge at the same court on Friday, November 26 sentenced Youell and Rumbold to 14 years each in jail, while Wright was given a 12 year sentence.

NCA Regional Head of Investigations Peter Stevens said: “The sentences handed out today demonstrate just how seriously UK courts take drug trafficking offences and I welcome them. “The class A drugs seized in this investigation would all have ended up in the hands of UK criminal gangs involved in violence and exploitation, and provided a big payday for Youell, Rumbold and Wright. By their own admission, they thought they had ‘hit the jackpot’.

“But they weren’t counting on the tenacity and expertise of the NCA officers who, supported by our Dutch partners, watched their every move – even during the height of the UK’s Covid lockdown.

“I hope others involved in this type of activity take notice – we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle the organised criminal networks involved in international drugs supply.”