In order to showcase the products offered, drug dealers will often take pictures of their goods or post something related to what they offer to give the buyer a peek at the product before they buy it.
This is usually the case for tangible items which may come in different forms.
Without knowing that a small move will turn out as a costly blunder, a drug dealer in South Whales took a picture holding a supply of drugs, which ended up exposing his identity after a fingerprint technique was later used to identify him.
The picture was discovered by the police after he sent it to his associates via WhatsApp, a popular messaging platform.
As it happens on ordinary occasions, law enforcement investigations always start with local authorities, and if the situation is extreme, they seek the services of other agencies within or out of the country.
A point to note is that all countries have law enforcement agencies dealing with particular tasks, i.e., criminal investigations, intelligence, among others. All these agencies work hand-in-hand from time to time to maintain law and order.
In South Wales, the Joint Scientific Support Unit (JSIU) was called in by the Bridgend Priority Policing Team to help in forensic investigations involving Elliot Morris, a 28-year-old West Midlands resident.
Morris was later found to be associated with a particular gang that deals with large-scale cannabis trafficking in Bridgend.
The investigations by the law enforcement agencies started after suspicions emerged that drugs were being sold at a home of an individual named Jonathan Thomas in Kenfing Hill.
Following the suspicion, which led to an investigation that lasted months, the police were able to gain enough evidence about the ring.
In an event that transpired in August of last year, local authorities witnessed a scene where the house belonging to Thomas was used as a drop-off for the drugs.
What followed was the execution of an arrest warrant which led to the arrest of Thomas and his other four colleagues, namely Aaron McKay, Michael Rouse, Danial Jenkins and Nathan Burgess.
After the arrest of Thomas and his associates, it was necessary that a search was conducted in the property, which led to the seizure of large amounts of cannabis. Also, the home of Michael Rouse, who was the one caught facilitating the delivery, was ransacked leading to the discovery of more drugs.
During these searches, it was discovered that the drugs were labeled GG—short for Gorilla Glue, a potent strain of cannabis.
Investigators then tracked a car belonging to Michael Rouse and Jonathan Scanlon (another defendant), which led them to discover that the drugs were being transported to and from Redditch.
Also during the arrest, the police confiscated a phone belonging to Aaron McKay. After going through it, they discovered months-old WhatsApp messages that would link the group to the Morris family, based in Redditch.
After the revelations, the police conducted a raid into the home and arrested some of the members of the family. At the residence, police encountered a factory used to manufacture cannabis on the property.
It was at this juncture that the law enforcement personnel involved in the operation concluded that the head of the ring was in fact Elliot Morris, who was not at the premise at the time of the raid.
It is normal for lead perpetrators to go into hiding after they become aware that police are conducting an operation to apprehend them. It was no different in the case of Elliot Morris, who had gone into hiding in a rural log cabin that hosted another drug factory.
Despite trying to stay in the hideout, police were able to catch up with him. During this time, he was in the company of his girlfriend and another individual.
Based on evidence gathered, investigators were fully convinced that Elliot Morris had about 20,000 Euros hidden in Bitcoin.
Given the fact that Bitcoin is the primary mode of payment in darknet markets, there were speculations that Morris was operating on the dark web. This could not be confirmed because there was no information from South Wales Police that suggested the same.
However, Elliot Morris confessed that the money was acquired through the drug trade.
Other items seized in the investigation were £21,000 in cash and drugs worth approximately £36,000. Then also, apart from cannabis, a supply of both ecstasy and cocaine were found.
The Forensic Evidence
After the arrest of Elliot Morris, the JSUI was able to link him to a picture of an individual holding drugs courtesy of a fingerprint technique adopted the agency.
The staff operating the technology used image-enhancing techniques on the picture that was taken using a smartphone.
The picture depicted Elliot holding the drugs with part of his hand visible. Even though it was only a small portion evident in the photo, the team was able to prove it with certainty, thus showing the efficiency of the technique.
Sentences: Fines and Jail
During the sentencing, Detective Dean Taylor made some remarks and emphasized on the need for the local community to report any suspicious activities.
He also praised the personnel drawn from different security agencies as it was their efforts that made the whole operation a success.
After the parties involved in the scheme were presented before the Cardiff Crown Court, they all received different sentences depending on the evidence gathered and provided to the court.
There were two individuals who were found not guilty, and their names were Chazino Suban and Rosaleen Abdel-Salam. Both were fined £700 and £350 respectively for possessing drugs.
Elliot Morris was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in jail after being convicted of drug possession and trafficking.
His parents, Darren and Dominique Morris, were convicted to 27 months and one year, respectively.
Others who faced similar jail sentences were Thomas and McKay, who both received 27 months, as well as Burgess and Rouse, who were sentenced to nine months.
And last but not least was Scanlon who was jailed for 30 months for being in possession of cocaine that he intended to traffic on behalf of the other parties.
Law Enforcement Agencies Continue to Monitor Online Drug Trade
Based on the nature of activities carried out in online drug dealing operations—whether it’s based on dark web markets or through messaging apps like WhatsApp—then for sure no security agency will sit idle and watch as events unfold without doing anything.
Depending on the type of operation, it may take days, weeks or even months for authorities to catch up with an individual or group of persons. But one thing is for sure; enough evidence is required before one is arrested and charged.
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