MEMBERS of a Birmingham-based cocaine and heroin supply group which sourced lethal firearms to threaten rivals and customers have been convicted.
Michael Earp, of Pear Tree Road in Shard End, and Danyal Aziz, of Pelham Road in Stechford, used encrypted messaging service Encrochat to arrange the importation and sale of class A drugs, National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators said.
The Agency added they bought guns in the belief that they would help protect their business from their criminal competition.
These included three pistols, and a Skorpion sub-machine gun which was recovered from the home of Earp’s cousin Nicole Rhone in Yardley Green Road, Bordesley Green.
The group used Encrochat in the belief they were operating under the radar of law enforcement, but they were identified by NCA officers following the takedown of the encrypted network by international policing partners.
In one of the messages, Aziz (aged 26) discussed he had a gun and bullets in his possession and using it against customers who owe him money.
NCA officers found that Aziz was in charge of the group and directed Earp, aged 29, where to deliver drugs money and requested regular updates as to his stocks of drugs.
The gang were arrested between May and July 2020. Rhone was arrested at her home where the Skorpion sub-machine gun was found with a compatible magazine and bullets inside.
More ammunition was found in a wardrobe in a child’s bedroom and matched a photo sent on Encrochat.
Earp’s vehicle was searched and NCA officers discovered a large void behind the radio unit where airbags should have been stored. It had been lined with silver tape and metal was welded in place to the back of the radio to secure it.
The area was swabbed and traces of cocaine was found.
The group were found guilty of drugs and firearms offences at Birmingham Crown Court after a five week trial on June 1 and will be sentenced at a later date.
NCA Branch Commander Mick Pope said: “This was a dangerous criminal organisation heavily involved in bringing class A drugs in from abroad and supplying them in Birmingham and throughout the UK.
“They also acquired deadly firearms to scare and intimidate competitors and customers alike, but which of course presented a huge risk to any member of the public.
“This investigation has taken a high risk group off the streets and lethal weapons out of the hands of criminals. The NCA will continue to protect the public from the global trades in illegal drugs and firearms, which bring violence and intimidation to communities through the UK.”