A decorated ex-soldier has been jailed after he was linked to a £1.3million cocaine gang in an Encrochat police sting.
Liam McGrath was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and the Order of Iraq for 9 years in the military.
But he has now come to grace after being jailed for seven years for his role in a major drug ring in Greater Manchester.
The 34-year-old has joined discussions to help transfer at least 13kg of class A drugs in just seven weeks while the country is in the midst of its first Covid shutdown.
Liam McGrath has been jailed for seven years for his role in the £1.3m cocaine gang operating in Manchester
Two other men, Jake Meade and Dale Reid, were each also jailed for more than 14 years for their leading roles in the criminal enterprise.
The group went bankrupt when police hacked into messages between them on Encrochat, an app used by criminals to communicate securely.
Meade, 33, and Reid, 31, are described as the brains behind the operation, which has been discovered to have amassed more than £1.1 million in criminal cash assets.
But at Manchester Crown Court, it was said it was the former soldier, McGrath, who was trusted to deliver drugs and cash, MEN reported.
The 34-year-old has been involved in discussions to transfer at least 13kg of Class A drugs in just seven weeks while the country is in the midst of its first Covid shutdown.
When the police entered the gang, they found a large amount of cocaine and contraband
The ‘reliable courier and archivist’ left the army after being awarded two medals, but struggled in civilian life.
His father’s suicide and memories of what he witnessed in the armed forces led him to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
He was then involved in drug use and taking on debts he was trying to pay off by working for the gang, Judge Timothy Smith was told on Monday, April 4.
The group was arrested as part of Operation Venetic, a nationwide crackdown focused on criminals using Encrochat.
In the message, Meade operates under the name ‘Cookietender’ and directs the drug line with the help of Reid – also known as ‘Navalhound’ and ‘Usualbee’.
Both men then used McGrath, who became known as the ‘Stoicrider’, to help move and store the illegal items.
The court said he received a salary ‘like a salaried employee’.
The message revealed the three had discussed buying a van and installing a hidden vehicle in it to hide their drugs and money instead of using a backpack.
Jake Meade, a former drug dealer, is one of the brains behind the operation
When Meade and Reid were arrested in July 2020, officers seized more than £43,000 in cash, three cars, large quantities of designer clothing, bags and jewelry including a watch and Cartier bracelet, a diamond ring and a Louis Vuitton bracelet.
Meade, Dean Brook Close, Moston, Reid, Latrigg Crescent, Middleton, and McGrath, of Lonsdale Road, Oldham, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply drugs, specifically cocaine.
The court heard that both Meade and Reid had previous convictions for supplying Class A drugs.
Judge Smith said the group was involved in the sale of cocaine on a commercial scale, adding: ‘It’s clear that you are very much involved in the cocaine trade at the time the communication was discovered. .’
Dale Reid, along with Meade, were sentenced to 14 years and 5 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine
He said: “You are Mr. Meade and you are Mr. Reid that put this business together well.
‘You guys together hope to make money and in your own words Mr Meade, enrich yourself.
‘There are substantial sums of money being talked about. And most likely the amount is more than suggested. ‘
He added that he was not swayed by McGrath’s offers, he was pressured to do what the gang wanted when he refused to name the person who forced him to do it.
Meade and Reid were each jailed for 14 years and five months, while McGrath was jailed for seven years.
This group was arrested after police intercepted messages from them discussing the transportation of large quantities of cocaine
Detective Sergeant Paul Halliwell, from the GMP’s Organized Crime Coordination Unit, said: ‘This was an organized and sophisticated drug operation that resulted in many kilograms of cocaine being distributed throughout the area.
‘They tried to hide their activity using complicated and expensive Encrochat technology but was caught by us and we were able to see the extent to which they were using their phones to carry out their activity .
‘As a result large quantities of drugs were taken to the streets and three more drug traffickers were imprisoned for a significant number of years, ending a string of drug trafficking days they tried to cover up .
‘GMP is dedicated to the relentless pursuit and disruption of those running rampant in the region and will do all it can to bring those involved to justice.
‘Drugs not only pose a risk to those who use them, but are also one of the biggest contributors to serious violence on our streets.
‘Anyone with drug information in their area can report it online or by using our LiveChat service at www.gmp.police.uk. Alternatively, anonymously contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.’