A Father and son have been jailed alongside a third man for their part in a £4m drugs conspiracy in Salford
Ricky Lee aged 31 of Eccles Road in Swinton, Christopher Gresty aged 56 of Vicars Street in Eccles and Louis Gresty aged 25 of Liverpool Street in Salford appeared at Manchester Crown Court and were sentenced to a total of 28 years in jail.
At the centre of the investigation was the use of encrypted mobile phones, which falls under Operation Venetic, the National Crime Agency (NCA) led operation which disrupted the encrypted communication system, Encrochat, used by organised criminal networks.
Each user was allocated a ‘handle’ to identify themselves across the network and conceal their true identity. In 2020, law enforcement agencies collaborated across Europe to dismantle the network and identify those who used it.
Ricky Lee used Encrochat handles ‘scarygate’ and ‘shockingstar’ to communicate with others and organise the wholesale acquisition and supply of cocaine and cannabis across Manchester, Liverpool and even Coventry. Christopher Gresty was his trusted associate in keeping drugs, debt lists, scales, and bags at his flat in Eccles, which was used as a base of operations. Louis Gresty dealt cocaine and cannabis at street level, and he and his father used his account to take payments for drugs by bank transfer.
Police searched their home addresses in May of 2021 and again in January of 2022 and found evidence of a highly lucrative drug sales network. Despite police intervention they continued to supply a large customer base in the Salford and Tyldesley area until they were finally remanded into custody in September 2022.
When officers raided Lee’s address on Eccles Road in Swinton, bundles of cash amounting to over £25,000 were found lying around the house under a TV cabinet, in a child’s cot and in bedroom drawers. At the time Lee stated the cash was ‘from (his) dog business’. This wouldn’t be the only occasion he would use his business as a cover for his crimes.
At Christopher Gresty’s flat in Eccles, officers also found bundles of cash amounting to almost £25,000, cocaine, scales, bags, and handwritten debt lists. Meanwhile at Louis Gresty’s house, the police entered to find him flushing bags of cocaine down the toilet.
During the trial the court heard how the debt lists seized on 13 May 2021 showed that the author had not had a day off from supplying cocaine in 40 weeks – from the date of the first police entry on 24 July 2020 until the final entry on 13 May 2021. It was added that the author was an active supplier of cocaine and had supplied over 5kg of cocaine and received payment of approximately £343,000.
In just nine weeks, between 30 March 2020 and 10 June 2020 the group moved 43.5 kilograms of cocaine and 11.5 kilograms of cannabis with a street value of over £4m.
On 31 March 2020 during the Coronavirus lockdown scarygate (Lee) stated his intention to use his dog breeding as a cover:
- scarygate I’ll have my dog in car
- scarygate On way to do breeding I breed bulldogs mate so I’ll blag it
- Reply: Just say collecting the dog because he was there for breeding
- Scarygate: No mate I’ll go in dog van got 5 cages in full of dog biscuit and stuff
- Reply: Perfect reason to be out on road
On 5 April 2020, Lee made another trip, this time to Liverpool to collect ten kilos of cocaine. Again, he used his van as cover and also planned to use visiting his child as an excuse if he was stopped by the police. These ten kilograms were then taken to Christopher Gresty’s flat for safe keeping whilst they were redistributed.
Lee in particular was making full use of his profits. He invested money into his business and paid for private IVF treatment with his partner. The police were able to trace over £10,000 spending at one clinic but in Encrochat, Lee claimed to have spent £86,000 over 2 years on this treatment. Lee later held a ‘gender reveal’ party at his home address during lockdown.
Lee and Gresty were also involved with others in a scam, ripping other dealers off by mixing their cocaine to dilute it and hoping no one would notice the difference. Christopher Gresty paid nearly a thousand pounds to purchase a hydraulic press to re-press the cocaine back into blocks after it had been interfered with. The purchase of the press was traced to his credit card.