A drug dealer's enjoyment of Blue Stilton cheese led to his capture and a sentence of over 13 years in prison.
Carl Stewart, a Liverpool resident, was identified after he shared an image of cheese purchased at a UK supermarket.
The 39-year-old shared his delight in the purchase over Encrochat, an encrypted messaging service, under the handle "Toffeeforce." However, in his glee, he did not realize that the photo provided vital clues to the police -- namely, fingerprints which were then analyzed by investigators.
Merseyside police say that Stewart was a drug dealer who used to supply "large amounts" of class A and B drugs.
Stewart was identified and arrested. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, heroin, MDMA, and ketamine, as well as the charge of transferring criminal property.
The former drug dealer was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court on May 21 to 13 years and six months in prison.
"Carl Stewart was involved in supplying large amounts of class A and B drugs, but was caught out by his love of Stilton cheese, after sharing a picture of a block of it in his hand through Encrochat," commented Detective Inspector Lee Wilkinson. "His palm and fingerprints were analyzed from this picture and it was established they belonged to Stewart."
Stewart is the latest to be prosecuted following "Operation Venetic," an investigation into the use of Encrochat by criminal groups to avoid being identified.
Encrochat, closed down by the police in July last year when its servers were seized, provided encrypted, instant messaging and mobile phones based on a subscription and custom operating system.
Agencies have been working since 2016 to close the operation down, and after partners in France and the Netherlands infiltrated the platform, data shared across the network was monitored for months and has since been handed over to Europol and international law enforcement.
The UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) says that roughly 60,000 users have been identified worldwide and approximately 10,000 of them are based in the country.
Merseyside police claim that "all" of these users are involved in "coordinating and planning the supply and distribution of drugs and weapons, money laundering and other criminal activity."