Cocaine dealers jailed for 16 years after encrypted devices infiltrated
24 May | 15:55

Cocaine dealers who ran an illicit empire worth an estimated £300,000 have been jailed after their encrypted devices were infiltrated.

John Robert Gates and Andrew Brierley appeared at Newcastle Crown Court today (Wednesday) where they were both sentenced to a combined total of more than 16 years for their roles in sourcing and supplying Class A and Class B drugs.

The pair’s illegal antics came to light back in March 2020 when law enforcement took down an encrypted device platform and infiltrated a haul of messages.

Officers from the Force’s crime department launched an investigation as part of Operation Sentinel into the activity and quickly began compiling a case against Gates, the principle figure of the conspiracy, and his trusted lieutenant and courier, Brierley.

Their enquiries found that between March and May that year, Gates had sourced and sold over seven kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated £300,000 and 16kg of Cannabis with an estimated value of £72,000 with Brierley’s help.

When officers swooped in and arrested the pair, they were taken into custody and soon charged with drugs offences.

They later appeared in court where they admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and conspiracy to supply cannabis and have been jailed as follows:

  • Andrew Brierley, 31, of Allendale Road in Walker, was jailed for seven years and two months.
  • John Robert Gates, 34, of Greenhills in Killingworth was jailed for nine years and seven months.

Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Marc Michael praised the continued work of his team.

He said: “We have made incredible strides over the past few years through our continued activity as part of Operation Sentinel. Today’s results are just another example of what that dedication and effort can achieve as we now have two members of an organised criminal group behind bars. 

“Brierley and Gates were observed over a period of time carrying out illegal business activity in plain sight, using their encrypted devices to buy and source cocaine, and a variety of other items like cannabis and MDMA to sell for profit.

“Their brazen and shameless behaviour has now landed them behind bars and their criminal cash and drugs seized. We will continue our work to dismantle and disrupt organised criminality because it has no place here in Northumbria.

“Illegal drugs harm our communities by exploiting and manipulating those who are most vulnerable and we know the profits of their sales never benefit the neighbourhoods they are sold in – the are funnelled back into more serious crime.

“I’d like to thank the team of officers and staff who helped us secure these convictions, thanks to their hard work this pair had no choice but to admit their guilt in court and I am pleased they have been dealt with.”


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