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Sefton resident Stephen Warner sentenced to 15 years for drug and arson conspiracies

Waterloo resident Stephen Warner sentenced to 15 years for drug and arson conspiracies.

Stephen Warner, a 36-year-old resident of Alexandra Road, Waterloo, was sentenced to 15 years in prison yesterday, Friday, June 28, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs and conspiracy to commit arson. Warner's sentencing at Liverpool Crown Court follows his extradition from Spain and is part of the larger international crackdown known as Operation Venetic, which targets criminals using mobile encryption services to evade detection.

Warner was identified through an extensive investigation as the user of the EncroChat handle 'zonelizard.' He had inadvertently revealed his identity by providing personal details on multiple occasions while using the encrypted device. Investigators also linked him to the handle through a password associated with his daughter and references to a vehicle registered and insured in his name. Additionally, he had discussed previous arrests and electronic tagging in messages.

In June 2020, EncroChat messages revealed Warner orchestrated an arson attack on a vehicle in Anfield, believing the owner owed him money. Officers later confirmed the vehicle was set on fire. Warner was also planning two further arson attacks, according to the messages.

A search of Warner’s flat on Alexandra Road in February 2021 uncovered £10,000 in cash and a significant quantity of Class A and B drugs. Following the discovery, Warner fled to Spain but was apprehended by Spanish police in October last year and extradited to the UK to face charges.

Merseyside Police charged Warner with conspiracy to supply cocaine, heroin, ketamine, amphetamine, and cannabis, as well as conspiracy to commit arson.

Detective Inspector Peter McCullough commented on the case: “The EncroChat messages clearly demonstrated that Warner played a leading role in supplying Class A and B drugs. This was further verified with the cash and drugs found in his flat. The arson attacks he plotted to carry out showed he had no regard for public safety, and innocent people could have been hurt by these reckless actions.

“Serious organized crime gangs are a massive blight on our communities, where drugs are closely linked to serious violence, involving firearm and knife crime. I hope this sentencing shows that Merseyside Police will leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of people who think they are above the law, and we will continue to target criminals by thoroughly examining any evidence, messages, and images we find.”

Anyone with information on suspected drug production or criminal activity in their community can contact Merseyside Police Contact Centre, call 101 or come forward anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Always call 999 if a crime is in progress.

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