A 'thoroughly good' dad was unmasked as a drugs boss involved in importing huge amounts of heroin and cocaine into the UK after the EncroChat network was hacked by police.

Nathan Loftus, from Bury, was also known within the criminal underworld as a 'go-to man' for crooks who wanted guns.

Loftus, 38, was involved in importing tens of kilos of heroin and cocaine from Holland into the UK through Liverpool.

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'At the very least' the plot involved 84.5 kilos of cocaine and 59 kilos of heroin, according to the messages police were able to recover from the EncroChat network after it was successfully hacked by law enforcement.

Loftus, who used the EncroChat handle 'Bigmninee', said he'd 'pass out firearms if needed' after being told there was 'friction' on an estate in north Manchester.

He was said to be linked to a three semi-automatic pistols, a Browning, a Walther P22 and a Glock.

Loftus recruited Sean Doyle to work as a driver for the huge drugs plot.

Doyle, 30, from Blackley, was given an Encro phone with the handle 'Minorspark', and a Renault van which contained an 'exceptionally sophisticated' hide to surreptitiously transport drugs and cash.

Sean Doyle

When Doyle was arrested at his home in Blackley, police discovered just under £348,000. Loftus had a 'very expensive watch' and a cryptocurrency wallet.

Now Loftus has been jailed for 22 years for his role in the staggering plot.

Doyle was locked up for seven years.

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"You were both using encrypted phones in order to carry on what was a business, a business capable of yielding very large profits," Judge Alan Conrad QC told the pair.

"No doubt you believed that messaging behind the encryption afforded by your phones meant you were safe from apprehension.

"That was not so, and you and many like you face punishment under the law."

Pair unmasked after police hack phone messages

Their roles were uncovered after EncroChat, an encrypted messaging used by criminals, was infiltrated by the police.

Messages recovered from the network were sent between March and June last year.

They revealed that Loftus was communicating with another user with the handle 'Argy' who was higher up the drugs chain, a man who is wanted by police, as well as other EncroChat users.

They discussed deals to purchase kilos worth of drugs which were being smuggled into the UK, mainly through the port at Liverpool, prosecutor Tom Challinor said.

At one stage Loftus was told by another EncroChat user that a container of drugs was imported approximately every 10 days.

Argy and Loftus spoke about a container smuggling 140 kilos of cocaine into the country, with Argy saying he had reserved 15 kilos for himself.

Even after a contact in Holland was arrested with 11 kilos of drugs, they were quickly able to secure another source of narcotics.

Argy found another consignment of 10 kilos, with Loftus borrowing £100,000 to buy the drugs.

A planned importation into Walthamstow in London did not materialise after the driver didn't arrive.

Argy was 'resigned' to the loss and said they 'learned their lesson', but Loftus would 'not let it go' and secured a 'refund'.

As well as the huge amount of drugs, Loftus became known within the EncroChat network as having access to guns.

An EncroChat user asked Loftus for a 'Johnny shooter', meaning a firearm.

After being told of 'friction' on the Shiredale estate in Harpurhey, Loftus said he would 'pass out firearms if needed'.

"He was obviously a go-to man as far as guns were concerned," Judge Alan Conrad QC said.

Doyle became involved in April last year.

Loftus said he had been 'on at him for months' to take up the role as courier, having described him as being 'switched on' and saying he 'knew the drill'.

Doyle, who said he was 'excited' to be working with Loftus, transported kilos of drugs as well as cash.

The messages stopped in June last year, around the same time as EncroChat was infiltrated by the authorities.

"I believe that the message went out from the people at EncroChat at the beginning of June advising their users to power off their devices," Mr Challinor said.

"By that stage the police were investigating EncroChat and in due course the messages were recovered."

Police stormed homes in dawn raids

Both men arrested at their homes dawn raids on March 11 this year.

Police also recovered the the Renault Kangoo van, which had a concealed hide which had been cut into its floor.

Loftus was 'instrumental' in helping police recover the Browning weapon, the court heard.

The Browning did not work. Loftus did not have direct access to the other two guns but was 'aware' of them and it was thought he 'could gain access' if necessary.

His barrister Adrian Farrow described Loftus, who has a previous conviction for possessing a firearm which he acquired 'following a murder', as a 'thoroughly good man'.

He was jailed for five years and was released in 2004.

"He was in paid employment throughout," Mr Farrow said.

"He has not made his way as many people do by criminal activity, but at a relatively late stage in his life he has become embroiled in this activity, a matter he sincerely regrets."

Mr Farrow said Loftus was an 'intermediary' and that Argy was 'closer to the source' of the drugs than Loftus.

Ayaz Qazi, for Doyle, said he was suffering from mental health problems at the time, and was only involved for about a month.

He said Doyle's house, where the huge sum of cash was found, was used as a safehouse for criminals.

Doyle, who comes from 'good stock', is 'deeply remorseful' and 'shameful', Mr Qazi said.

Loftus, of Wilton Drive, Bury, admitted conspiracy to import heroin and cocaine, while Doyle, of Wavertree Road, Blackley, admitted conspiracy to supply heroin and cocaine.

Loftus also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life, while Doyle admitted possession of criminal property.

Both also admitted money laundering.

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