Wokingham Man Sentenced to 18 Years for Darknet Vending

Darknet Trio Arrest 18 years in prison
Rate our article

A Wokingham man has been sentenced to 18 years and six months in prison for leading a sophisticated drug distribution operation using the darknet. He was part of a Darknet vendor trio that engaged in the supply of Class A, B, and C drugs, facilitated by the encrypted communication service EncroChat, which was dismantled by international law enforcement under Operation Venetic.

Key Insights

  • Joe McNally, Robert Brewster, and Benjamin Martin-Bynoe were sentenced at Reading Crown Court for their roles in a major drug distribution network.
  • McNally received an 18-year and six-month sentence, Brewster six years and two months, and Martin-Bynoe five years and six months.
  • Their operation involved the use of EncroChat, an encrypted communication platform, to orchestrate the distribution of Class A, B, and C drugs.
  • The charges followed from Operation Venetic, an international effort that brought down EncroChat and exposed numerous criminal activities including the defendants’.
  • Investigators traced drug-related exchanges on the dark web back to devices managed by McNally, leading to their arrests.
  • Over 1,000 individuals have been prosecuted as a result of information obtained from EncroChat, highlighting its extensive use among organized crime groups.

Sentenced in Major Drug Operation

Joe McNally, 33 is from Park Lane,  Finchampstead in Wokingham, has recently received an 18-year and six-month sentence at the Reading Crown Court on Monday, April 8, following a thorough investigation that was conducted by the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU).

McMally was not alone in his crime. He was sentenced with his “business partners”, Robert Brewster, 55, of High Road, Brent, London, who was sentenced to six years and two months imprisonment, as well as Benjamin Martin-Bynoe, 35, of Castlehaven Road, Camden, who received a five-year and six-month sentence. 

Rebecca Sharp, Specialist Prosecutor for the CPS: “The defendants in this case were involved in a sophisticated criminal operation which saw a large-scale supply of illegal drugs, sold online and sent worldwide. Despite their considerable efforts to evade detection – using the dark web, cryptocurrency, and encryption software to disguise their criminal business – the overwhelming amount of evidence against each defendant meant that they had little choice but to admit their involvement.”

The three men eventually pleaded guilty to charges that were related to the supply of Class A (Cocaine), Class B (Ketamine and Cannabis), and Class C (Zopiclone) drugs, as well as the fraudulent evasion of the prohibition on the importation of these substances.

The Venetic Drug Operations 

The charges came as a result of Operation Venetic which is an international law enforcement operation that succeeded in bringing down Enchrochat, which is an encrypted communication system used by criminals. The takedown of Enchrochat ended up leading to the discovery of messages between devices related to the large-scale supply of drugs on darknet markets, which were then traced back to McNally, Brewster, and Martin-Bynoe.

Investigators found that McNally, who was identified as the group’s leader, ran and operated dark web accounts to sell a large amount of drugs, with transactions conducted using cryptocurrency. Brewster and Martin-Bynoe were responsible for the easier jobs of packaging the drugs and dispatching them through Royal Mail in disguised packaging.

At the time of his arrest, McNally was found using a laptop that was equipped with a USB-containing software designed to prevent data storage. But the authorities were able to recover information on the device linking him to the supply of drugs to customers through the darknet.

Officials Bring Drug Network to an End

Detective Inspector Rob Bryant, of SEROCU, lauded the efforts of Detective Constables Tracy Jones and Jo Waites in linking the three men to the crime. “McNally, Brewster, and Martin-Bynoe have all admitted their involvement in this sophisticated supply of drugs. By using Enchrochat devices, they attempted to evade law enforcement and hide their activity. However, due to the hard work of SEROCU, we were able to prove their connection to these devices, and they will now face the consequences of their actions,”

DI Bryant also highlighted the detrimental impact of drug supply on communities, showing the ongoing commitment of law enforcement to bring drug traffickers and offenders to justice and bring to an end such harm.