Drug dealer caught after police identify fingerprints from photo of cheese

A criminal was caught after uploading this photo online.
A criminal was caught after uploading this photo online. Photo credit: Merseyside Police

A drug dealer in Liverpool has been jailed for 13 years after he posted a picture of himself holding a block of cheese in an online messaging service used by criminals.

Carl Stewart, 39, appeared before the Liverpool Crown Court on Friday (UK time) and pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to supply heroin, cocaine, ketamine, and MDMA, as well as the transferring of criminal property.

Stewart posted the photo of his hand holding a block of stilton cheese on EncroChat, an encrypted messaging service used by various criminal organisations.

The police were able to enhance the photo and analyse his palm and fingerprints, connecting Stewart to drug sales made through the network.

European law enforcement agencies and the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) worked together to crack EncroChat last year in an effort called Operation Venetic. 

An NCA statement said the service's "sole use was for coordinating and planning the distribution of illicit commodities, money laundering and plotting to kill rival criminals."

A police statement said Stewart went by 'Toffeeforce' online, a reference to local football club Everton who are nicknamed 'the Toffees'.

A mug shot of Carl Stewart, 39.
A mug shot of Carl Stewart, 39. Photo credit: Merseyside Police

Detective Inspector Lee Wilkinson of the Merseyside Police in Liverpool said: "Carl Stewart was involved in supplying large amounts of class A and B drugs, but was caught out by his love of stilton cheese... His palm and fingerprints were analysed from this picture.”

He 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."

"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".

The NCA have called Operation Venetic "the biggest and most significant operation of its kind in the UK", stating Encrochat had around 60,000 users worldwide.