On May 26 2020, officers stopped Richard Watkins, 43, from Ebbw Vale who was driving a pick-up truck, after he was seen to meet with Daniel O’Hara, 47, from the West Midlands area. Covert officers witnessed the two meet in Ross-on-Wye and exchange packages.
On that day, officers stopped Watkins and found 3kg of cocaine in the footwell of the truck. O’Hara was stopped shortly after by West Midlands police on the M5 near Birmingham, where £89,980 cash was found in a carrier bag in his car. They were both arrested and conveyed to Bridgend police station.
Investigations from the Force Intelligence and Organised Crime Unit (FIOCU) revealed that John Paul Richards, 39, from Mountain Ash was using EncroChat; an encrypted network used by criminals, to facilitate the purchase of cocaine from an upstream supplier. Watkins and O’Hara were both couriers – conducting the exchange on behalf of Richards and the upward supplier.
It was concluded that between April and May 2020, 10.5kg of cocaine was exchanged between Richards, Watkins and O’Hara, which would have had an estimated street value of between £1.3 and £1.6 million.
The investigation, named Operation Tuscana, was a covert operation run by the FIOCU in 2020, which relates to a conspiracy to supply wholesale quantities of Class A drugs to an organised crime gang.
Detective Inspector Russell Jenkins, Officer in Case, said:
“Illegal drugs cause misery for our communities and has no place in society. We will continue to work together with other police forces and partner agencies to bring those to justice whose criminal activities blight the lives of communities in south Wales.
“I hope that this sentence serves as a message that we are committed to disrupting and dismantling organised crime groups, and we will do all we can to remove drugs from the streets.”
All three men were sentenced today (Wednesday 12 October) at Cardiff Crown Court.
Richard Watkins was sentenced to six years and four months for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.
Daniel O’Hara was sentenced to 10 years and three months for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.
John Paul Richards was sentenced to 13 years and six months for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.