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Cranfield man among those jailed for £8m drugs conspiracy

A man from Cranfield is among the latest drug dealers to be charged as a result of Operation Costello, launched after the UK’s biggest-ever law enforcement operation brought down the Encrochat platform.

Encrochat was an encrypted tool used exclusively by criminals to communicate with each other – allowing investigators to view messages and other media sent between users as they discussed large-scale criminality such as the movement of drugs and weapons.

Last week three men became the latest drug dealers to be jailed as a result of the operation – to a total of more than 36 years for their role in a drugs network involving a total of 200 kilos of cocaine worth around £8m.

Mohammed Shaukat and Ashley Cain, both from Luton, and Shane Dann, from Cranfield, were all part of an organised crime group (OCG) which supplied drugs across the country.

Dann, 31, of Brocklehanger Edge, Cranfield was sentenced to 15 years while Shaukat, 38, of Bloomfield Avenue, Luton was locked up for 13 years and five months. All three admitted conspiring to supply Class A drugs.

Cain, 32, of Petunia Court, Luton, was sentenced to seven years and six months for his role as a courier, collecting and delivering Class A drugs up and down the country. Detectives uncovered Cain was a key individual in the OCG and believe he was carrying out the “dirty work” for his co-conspirators Shaukat and Dann.

Operation Costello Lead Manager Linda Carson from Bedfordshire Police said: “The saying ‘bad things come in threes’ comes to mind in this case which is another positive result for our dedicated Op Costello team who work tirelessly to combat high-level criminality.

“These sentencings mean we’ve reached over 200 years of jail time in these cases which shows our commitment to relentlessly pursuing and dismantling those dealers who bring such misery to our communities.”

Operation Costello was set up through Special Grant funding from the government to help Bedfordshire Police tackle the extraordinary challenges posed locally by organised crime.

Detective Superintendent Nick Skipworth, who is leading Operation Costello, said: “We seek to take out the key players involved in drugs supply and its associated violence locally, which we know will have a huge impact in terms of protecting vulnerable people, as well as our communities more widely, from violence and exploitation.

“Under this dedicated operation, we have managed to disrupt this criminal network that had no fear of prosecution under the guise of Enrochat.

“We will continually attack this criminality, but we do need our communities to help and tell us if they have any concerns or see anything suspicious. If you suspect someone is involved in organised crime, please report it, and help us make a difference.”

Drugs seized by Operation Gleam (photo: Bedfordshire Police)

Anyone with information about drug dealing or wider organised crime activity can report it via our online reporting tool or by calling 101.

What is Operation Costello?

Operation Costello is the largest operation in Bedfordshire Police’s history to combat organised crime gangs and is the force’s response to the national Operation Venetic, which looks at criminality associated with specialist encrypted phones.

The team’s investigations have secured jail sentences of 200 years for those using the devices for illegal purposes.

Cracking the encryption on these specialist devices has enabled police to shine a light on the networks suspected of being involved in the highest levels of serious and organised crime across the country.

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