Drug-trafficking duo who sourced cocaine and cannabis on the dark web jailed

A drug-trafficking duo who sourced cocaine and cannabis on the dark web then sold them on the streets of West Cornwall have been jailed.

Supplier Jason Pierce bought the illegal narcotics online and imported them from abroad using cryptocurrency while distributor Callum Payne collected the packages and peddled them on.

The offenders, both from Porthleven, have been sent to prison for a combined total of ten years.

Their criminal endeavours were uncovered when a police pursuit ended in officers finding thousands-of-pounds-worth of cannabis in a vehicle being driven by Payne.

Experts had to crack encrypted software on the defendants’ computers to unlock files and fully uncover the offences.

Pierce, aged 56, and Payne, aged 28, both denied conspiracy to supply cocaine and cannabis but were found guilty by a jury following a trial at Truro Crown Court.

Pierce was jailed for six years and eight months. Payne was sentenced to three years and four months in prison.

Payne was sentenced to three years and four months in prison (Image: D&C Police)

Detective Inspector Steven Moorcroft, of Devon and Cornwall Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Branch, said: “This investigation started in 2018, following a pursuit in Porthleven ending with Callum Payne running from a vehicle which contained a large quantity of cannabis which had been imported from the Netherlands via the dark web.

“Devon and Cornwall Police would like to stress that such serious drug trafficking offences will be investigated to safeguard the public from drug supply using the internet and mail services.”

The court heard how the drugs were purchased from the Netherlands on the dark web using Bitcoin.

Packages were sent to various locations in West Cornwall where they were collected and distributed.

Serious and Organised Crime Branch detectives began an investigation after a £5,500 haul of cannabis was found in a car following a short police pursuit on 2 January 2018.

The sliver Peugeot 306, which was registered to Pierce, had initially failed to stop for officers. Its driver, Payne, fled the scene but he left his driving licence and bank card behind.

Enquiries with the UK Border Agency established that the drugs discovered had been imported.

Forensic analysis of computers seized from the defendants was significantly delayed due to their high level of encryption. The machines – loaded with sophisticated privacy software – contained evidence they had been used to buy and sell Bitcoin and browse the dark web.

Phones seized from both defendants contained messages relating to the supply of drugs.

Pierce and Payne were sentenced at Plymouth Crown Court on 15 September.

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Written by T. Miller

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