Four men from Salford have been sentenced to over 45 years in prison after their conspiracy to shoot a man in the city was snared by the takedown of the encrypted network EncroChat.
Jordan Waring, Brandon Moore, Louis Coleman, and Umair Zaheer were each jailed at Manchester Crown Court (Crown Square) after being convicted of eight offences between them, including conspiracy to possession firearms with intent to endanger life and a million-pound conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
The court heard how the National Crime Agency (NCA)’s infiltration of EncroChat devices in early 2020 exposed the scale of the offending that the organised crime group was operating at.
After a shooting in the Kersal area in April of that year, encrypted messages uncovered the gang’s plan to retaliate with a sophisticated plot and a persistent desire for revenge.
Evidence of Waring and Moore, both 24 years old – injured in the discharge on 3 April 2020 – communicating through EncroChat to hit back with the supply of firearms of Zaheer (34) was detailed to the court.
The men made clear in their conversations that the man responsible for the shooting would ‘be dead’ and that they would ‘do him’ once they had his location.
Messages from Moore repeated his need to have a car and a gun, while Zaheer (known on EncroChat by the nickname Assasin’s Creed and who led a class A drug conspiracy estimated to be worth £1million) reiterated his desire to ‘kill this kid’.
Zaheer sent Moore a list of firearms for sale including two AK-47s with ammunition, to which Moore replied: ‘yeah nice bro this kid needs it’.
Our arrest of the suspected gunman for the Kersal shooting stalled the gang’s plan for revenge, and their plot was subsequently rumbled by Operation Venetic – the UK’s largest ever law enforcement operation.
Evidence passed by the NCA to detectives in GMP Salford’s Organised Crime Unit – Operation Arctic – began months of meticulous work to correlate the user-handle nicknames with the men responsible for the messages that were plotting lethal retribution.
Our investigators formed the case for all four men to be part of the conspiracy, and also had communications documenting the conspiracy to large-scale drug-deal, including Coleman (23) complaining about purchasing half a kilo of cocaine for £20k as he thought it was too inflated.
Today Zaheer, of Somerset Road, Eccles, was sentenced to 25 years in jail after admitting conspiracy to possess firearms or ammunition with intent to endanger life relating to the revenge shooting and a separate count of possession of firearms with intent to endanger life.
Zaheer and Coleman, of Pendlecroft Avenue, both admitted conspiring to supply cocaine, with Zaheer also admitting conspiring to supply cannabis, and Coleman admitted conspiring to supply ketamine – to which he was sentenced to a total of six years and nine months.
Moore, and Waring, both of Murray Street in Salford, also both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess firearms or ammunition with intent to endanger life relating to the revenge shooting, and have been jailed for 11 years and five months and eight years and seven months respectively.
Detective Constable Steven Walker, of GMP Salford’s Organised Crime Unit, said: “This group of men undoubtedly posed a significant threat to the city of Salford and it’s right that they’ll now spend the rest of the decade, at least, behind bars.
“The weapons that they were trying to get in possession of and the conspiracy they were planning could’ve proved to be a lethal combination, and the work we’ve been able to do with the National Crime Agency has certainly saved at least one life.
“We believe some of the serious criminality we’ve seen in Salford over recent years has stemmed from the threat posed by these individuals and there’s no doubt the community can welcome that fact that these men won’t be operating on our streets – whether it be in drugs or firearms – for years to come.
“This was a complex case and I’d like to thank detectives from our team tackling organised crime in Salford, as well as partners from the National Crime Agency who brought the encrypted material to our attention, to ensure that this group can be brought to justice for the full extent of their offending.”
Neil Gardner, NCA operations manager, said: “The weapons we took off the street and out of the crime groups’ hands were some of the most lethal around with a truly devastating capability.
“In seizing these weapons which are capable of firing multiple rounds per second, we have saved lives and protected the public.
“We will continue to do everything we can with partners at home and abroad to prevent organised crime groups trafficking firearms.”