Two sisters moved kilos of class A drugs and tens of thousands in cash across the country as part of a major drugs conspiracy.
Amy and Claire McGlone used the handle “Moodyalpha” to take instructions on couriering cocaine, heroin, cannabis from Merseyside to destinations across the UK. Police who arrested the pair found a massive drugs “hide” in their Mazda, while the hacking of the Encrochat network revealed the full extent of their criminality.
The sisters, both mums of two and from Kirkby, sat side by side in HMP Styal as a judge at Liverpool Crown Court jailed them this morning.
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Nicola Daley, prosecuting, said the sisters worked together, passing the Encro phone from one to the other as they both took instructions from their boss, “secretgold” during the spring of 2020. It is unclear when exactly the McGlones, neither of whom have any previous convictions, became involved in dealing drugs. However, a stream of messages show the pair were ferrying drugs to and from Merseyside throughout April and May of that year.
One set of messages from early April demonstrates how they took instructions from “secretgold”, who has not been identified, and moved drugs around the region. On April 7 he messaged 35-year-old Claire, who had the phone at that point, and said: “I need 1 top grabbing in Speke an passing in Chester mate is that OK”.
She replied: “When mate what time about I’ll fone Amy now” He said: “By about twenty to one that lunchtime.” She then told him: “Sound mate we ready and waiting to go wen u get PC [the postcode].”
He sent her the address later that day and both sisters then collected cocaine from a house on Speke’s Eastern Avenue and dropped it off at an address in Wrexham. Later messages, throughout that month and into May, either directly or indirectly refer to trips to Newport, Cardiff and Darlington as well as more local journeys.
On April 29, Claire McGlone appeared to be in control of the Encro phone and reassured “secretgold” that she would take £15,300 to Huyton as soon as she had “put the kids tea out”. Other messages reveal the sisters sometimes stored drugs and cash in the homes where they lived with their children. Asked on May 4 to send pictures of drugs she had picked up, Claire McGlone once replied: “Give me 5 mins coz its put in my good stash under the floor”.
The sisters were caught after being stopped in Newport by Gwent Police on May 20, 2020. That came as a result of Operation Venetic, the wider investigation into the Encrochat network. Ms Daley said: “When the police examined the car, they found a ‘hide’ behind the rear seats, secured by an electronically activated latch. Both Defendants were arrested and a BQ VSmart mobile phone was taken from Claire McGlone . When examined, this was found to have an unknown SIM within it and was believed to be an Encrochat enabled device.”
Later analysis of the phone revealed Amy McGlone, 38, could be linked to the supply of 6kgs of cocaine, 11kgs of heroin and 6.5kgs of cannabis between April 1 and May 10, 2020. Claire McGlone was linked to slightly lower amounts because she was in hospital for a period, meaning Amy carried out some trips alone.
Ms Daley said there was no evidence the women or their families were living “a lavish lifestyle” as a result of drug dealing, with Amy McGlone’s financial situation appearing to be particularly bad. Ms Daley said they appeared to be paid only a few hundred pounds for each trip.
In an earlier hearing, Claire McGlone said she had been forced into ferrying drugs by an abusive ex and described being arrested as “a relief” – but Judge David Swinnerton ruled coercion did not play a major role in her criminal activity.
Brenda Campbell, QC, defending Claire McGlone, and Rebecca Filletti, defending Amy McGlone, each said the sisters had an extremely difficult life and suffered from significant mental health problems linked to the death of their dad. Ms Campbell said: “These young women have had to face much more so far in their life than many people would face in a lifetime.”
She and Ms Filletti also appealed to Judge David Swinnerton to reduce their prison terms to take into account the effect of custody on their children and their mum, who they had both previously been caring for. Ms Campbell said of Claire McGlone: “She is utterly devastated to find herself in this position. She misses her children terribly and is overwhelmed by what she has done to her children and her mother.”
Judge Swinnerton said it was clear their dad’s death had marked the entirety of the sisters’ lives and “rippled through the generations” of their family and said he would reduce the sentence due to their personal circumstances. However, he said each were equally involved in a large drugs conspiracy that spread across the country, though he accepted they operated “entirely on the instructions of ‘secretgold’”.
Claire McGlone, of Mintor Road, was jailed for four years and nine months. Amy McGlone, of Kennelwood Avenue, was jailed for four years and six months.