One of the UK’s most wanted men has been jailed for his role in a gang that supplied drugs and guns.
Dean Garforth, who has previously lived in Widnes, Cheshire, was on the run for two years before he was arrested in Marbella, Spain, after trying to flee from police on an e-bike in 2022.
The 31-year-old admitted conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs and transfer prohibited weapons and ammunition.
He was sentenced at Chester Crown Court to 18 years and eight months in prison.
Cheshire Police said Garforth operated at the top of the chain and used the EncroChat communications network to discuss the supply of substantial amounts of Class A and Class B drugs with other criminals.
Detectives began building a case against him in April 2020, monitoring and analysing his messages under the handle Slickcliff.
The following month a transit van failed to stop for officers on Bradley Way, Widnes.
It was later found parked in Norlands Park, Widnes.
In a search of the van, police found a mobile phone linked to Garforth.
The device was used by Garforth to send messages through the now defunct EncroChat.
From March 2020 and July 2020, Garforth spoke to his associates about receiving and arranging for multiple deliveries of cocaine, cannabis, firearms, and ammunition in north-west England.
A warrant was executed at his home address in October 2020 but officers discovered he had fled to Spain, police said.
Garforth was riding an e-bike on a street in Marbella when he was arrested in a pre-planned operation in October 2022 and was later extradited to the UK.
Det Ch Insp Nick Henderson said: “Garforth, like many criminals, believed EncroChat would always be a safe and secure service to message freely and openly without being detected.
“Unbeknown to him, our detectives were watching.
“The encrypted device was previously perceived as being an untouchable way of communicating freely about criminality without being detected by police. Once it was cracked by law enforcement, it meant those using it would find it almost impossible to deny their involvement in serious and organised crime.”