A cocaine dealer known as ‘The Unit’ moaned that police had ‘taken all [his] trainers and everything’ after his role in the criminal underworld was exposed. Cornelius McFadden, 47, was unmasked as a ‘trusted’ courier linked to huge amounts of cocaine and also handled cash in excess of £300,000.
Despite living in a ‘cramped’ house in a state of ‘disrepair’, he had a genuine Cartier watch worth £9,450 and numerous pairs of trainers. The shoes were initially thought to be designer, but an investigation revealed they all were counterfeit apart from a genuine pair of Balenciaga trainers worth £700, Manchester Crown Court heard.
McFadden, from Stockport, has been locked up for eight years after he was unmasked as being behind the EncroChat username ‘The Unit’. Law enforcement were able to hack in to the highly encrypted network, which had previously provided criminals with a secret and undetectable messaging channel.
But messages were recovered and revealed how between April and June 2020 McFadden had been couriering drugs and cash, even during lockdown. In one exchange during the first national lockdown, McFadden met a woman wearing a nurse’s uniform who had travelled by train from the Midlands.
Prosecuting, Phil Barnes said such arrangements were a ‘common tactic’ used by criminals wary of being caught during the lockdown, with the number of people out and about severely reduced and priority given to key workers. It was claimed that McFadden had handed over drugs at the meet and was paid a few days later.
Messages recovered from EncroChat linked McFadden to 23 kilos of cocaine and a further kilo of heroin. In other chats, McFadden revealed he was ‘nervous’ about being out on the roads in the evening during the first lockdown.
He also had access to a stash house being used to store drugs by the organised crime gang he worked with. McFadden was arrested in July last year after details of his EncroChat messages were disclosed to GMP.
Police seized the trainers and Cartier watch from his home. During a phone conversation in a police station, McFadden was overheard to complain that officers had ‘taken all my trainers and everything’. Mr Barnes said records show that McFadden has not filed a self-assessment tax return since the 2015/16 tax year, and there was no evidence of him being in legitimate work since then.
Defending, Frances Hertzog said McFadden was living in ‘constrained’ circumstances at the time and didn’t enjoy a lavish lifestyle. He lived with his mother in a house in a state of ‘disrepair’ and shared a bedroom with his two children.
Ms Hertzog said McFadden had suffered from ‘educational difficulties’ since childhood and was experiencing family problems. But Judge Nicholas Dean QC told him: “You appeared to have absolutely no difficulties slotting into drug dealing of a serious nature.”
McFadden, of Balfour Grove, Reddish, pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
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