Offenders are not known by their real names on EncroChat but by ‘handles’, with Khassim Lawrence being known as ‘Motleymetal’. Following an extensive investigation which involved hours of trawling through incriminating messages, officers were able to pinpoint his every move which detailed a violent and targeted attack on a man and showed Lawrence conspiring to buy large quantities of drugs which would then be distributed across Manchester.
The crucial phone evidence showed that In April 2020 Lawrence was approached as a ‘thug for hire’, tasked with threatening someone with a firearm as a result of a long-standing dispute over drug debts.
Lawrence readily accepted the job and was told to ‘gun butt him a few times and f**k him up’ and to ‘spray the gaff up’ to send a message about paying his debts. He knew the target lived with a child, but the risk of serious violence to innocent people didn’t seem to be a cause for concern for him or the gang.
Over the next few months, the men discussed the best type of firearm to use, sent photos of the victim, and shared details of his wife’s car and whereabouts, with a clear message that if the debt wasn’t paid, the victim’s family will be threatened and put at risk.
Lawrence arranged for some of his men – his ‘soldiers’ – to disguise themselves as builders and go to the victim’s house and carry out the attack. They would be paid £7,500 for this.
On 19 April, Lawrence said he was looking to buy some more drugs to sell. The messages showed him bragging about ‘living good’ despite getting out of jail months earlier, buying expensive watches and jewellery again as a result of dealing drugs.
On 14 May, Khassim Lawrence purchased a kilo of cocaine for £37,500. Days later he was asking for more due to the amount of product he was selling at pace. Days later, he is in talks with a North East based OCG, planning to sell almost £20,000 worth of cocaine to them.
On Thursday 1 July, detectives were able to expose and dismantle his operation following a warrant at his home address in Denton where officers recovered cash, multiple mobile phones, high-value clothing, and even a knife stashed under the mattress in his bedroom.
Lawrences’ arrest was part of a wider investigation into the use of encrypted mobile phones used by organised criminal networks.
This fell under Operation Venetic, which was a nationwide crackdown led by the National Crime Agency (NCA) into the communications platform EncroChat; the UK’s biggest ever law enforcement operation.
Detective Constable Chris Brown from GMP’s Oldham Challenger said: “Khassim Lawrence, like many criminals before him, thought he was hiding behind a secure communications system. Instead, he was creating his own evidence trail that led him straight to jail.
“The messages in the lead up to the planned attack were horrific and showed what little regard this man and his acquaintances have for the safety of members of the public. He clearly believed he was above the law, so I hope todays sentencing sends out a strong message to those involved in this incredibly dangerous and damaging trade that we will continue to pursue you and bring you to justice.
“Organised crime often operates out of sight but can have a very real and devastating impact in our communities. It is therefore vital that we continue to do all we can to take down these individuals and continue to use all our specialist tactics to disrupt these dangerous offenders operating across Greater Manchester.
“We always welcome intelligence from the public that helps us find these criminals and I urge anyone with suspicions or concerns about criminal activity in their area to contact us or Crimestoppers so we can take action.”