A drug dealer has been jailed after police tracked him down using his fingerprints from a photo he took holding cheese.
Carl Stewart, 39, was sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison at Liverpool Crown Court on Friday.
He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, conspiracy to supply heroin, conspiracy to supply MDMA, conspiracy to supply ketamine and transferring criminal property.
Police said he “was caught out by his love of Stilton cheese” when he was identified after sharing an image on a mobile encryption service of a block of cheese in the palm of his hand.
Authorities managed to analyse his fingerprints from the image.
Stewart, of Liverpool, became the latest in Merseyside to be jailed in connection with an international operation targeting criminals who used encrochat to try to evade detection.
Stewart used the handle ‘Toffeeforce’ on the service and supplied large amounts of class A and B drugs.
Detective Inspector Lee Wilkinson said: “Today we have seen another significant sentencing as part of national Operation Venetic, which came about after law enforcement officials in Europe managed to crack the ‘encrochat’ service being used by criminals involved in serious and organised crime to carry out their business.
“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.
“His palm and fingerprints were analysed from this picture and it was established they belonged to Stewart.”
Around 60,000 users of encrochat have been identified worldwide, with about 10,000 of them in the UK – all involved in coordinating and planning the supply and distribution of drugs and weapons, money laundering and other criminal activity.
Police said arrests are continuing across Merseyside as part of the operation.
Det Insp Wilkinson added: “As part of Operation Venetic, Merseyside Police has so far arrested more than 60 people, many of whom have been charged with serious drug trafficking or firearms offences.
“This year will see a number of these people continuing to appear before the courts, and we welcome each and every one.
“Merseyside Police, along with law enforcement agencies across the world, will leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of those people who think they are above the law, and we will continue to target anyone involved in serious organised crime to keep this positive momentum going.”