How to trim the tree is a key decision for many households when it comes to Christmas.
Should you go with subtle and soft white lights, and a few golden baubles?
Or do you go all in with the Christmas kitsch, with flashing strobe lights in rainbow colours and the branches dripping with Santas and reindeer?
One drug dealer certainly took a unique path, creating something that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Breaking Bad character’s living room.
The theme of the tree was some silver tinsel, with accents of £20 notes and bags of white powder.
Police said they found a photo of the fir on Martin Porcelli’s phone when he was arrested as part of a year-long investigation into a crime gang in Merseyside.
‘We caught Porcelli as part of Operation Overboard, which is apt as that’s how we’d describe the Christmas décor snapped on his phone (what’s wrong with a nice spruce with some simple baubles and tinsel?),’ the local police press office said.
It isn’t clear whether Porcelli himself had the tree up, or if he just found it interesting enough to keep a photo of – though we have asked police if they can clarify.
Merseyside Police tweeted yesterday: ‘We also caught eight other (un)wise men as part of Overboard and found lots of interesting parcels under the tree (as well as in other parts of their houses), namely drugs worth £1.3m.’
Yesterday, nine gang members were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court to more than 89 years in prison in total.
Detectives discovered four of the defendants were using Encrochat on the dark web to hide their dealings.
Four of the suspects, Sinclair, O’Brien, Conroy and Meehan went to trial but were found guilty by a jury. The other five offenders pleaded guilty.
During the investigation detectives seized more than £282,500 of cash, firearms and ammunition and a substantial amount of Class A drugs which they said had a street value of more than £1.3 million.
The defendants and their jail terms
- Sean Burrell, 29, of Childwall, was sentenced to 13 years and six months for conspiracy to supply a controlled Class A drug, cocaine and diamorphine, conspiracy to supply a controlled Class B drug, cannabis, and conspiracy to produce a controlled Class B drug, cannabis. He went under the Encrochat handle ‘Misterbigarms’. Detectives identified Burrell as supplying in excess of 14.5kg cocaine as well as significant quantities of cannabis.
- James Wright, 36, of Gatecare, was sentenced to 16 years for conspiracy to supply cocaine and diamorphine, conspiracy to supply cannabis and possessing criminal property. His Encrochat handle ‘Stunhun’ confirmed Wright as supplying more than 17kgs cocaine, 4kgs heroin and 30kgs of cannabis.
- Martin McCoy, 42, of Toxteth, was sentenced to 16 months for conspiracy to supply cannabis. He used the Encrochat handle ‘Humantender’ and his sentencing was in relation to supplying at least 1kg of cannabis.
- Thomas O’Brien, 43, of Huyton, was sentenced to 18 years for conspiracy to supply cocaine and diamorphine, and conspiracy to supply cannabis. His Encrochat handle ‘scarwars’ involved the supply of 12kgs cocaine and 2kgs of heroin.
- Michael Joseph, 56, of Birkenhead, was sentenced to eight years and one month for possession of cocaine with intent to supply.
- Marvin Porcelli, 47, of Wavertree, was sentenced to seven years and six months for conspiracy to supply cocaine and diamorphine, and conspiracy to supply cannabis.
- Steven Sinclair, 54, of Huyton, was sentenced to 10 years for conspiracy to supply cocaine and diamorphine.
- David Conroy, 43, of Toxteth received eight years for conspiracy to supply diamorphine.
- Kieran Meehan, 30, of Wavertree was sentenced to seven years for conspiracy to supply diamorphine and cannabis.
- Also involved in the organised crime group, and sentenced at a previous hearing, were Thomas Penrith, 34 years, of Norris Green, and Andrew Webb, 46, of Knowsley Village. Both offenders were each sentenced to 25 years imprisonment at Liverpool Crown Court last month.
The investigation was helped by investigations in Europe which cracked the Encrochat service being used by some of the defendants.
Detective Inspector Paul McVeigh said: ‘Today’s sentencing of nine men under Operation Venetic and Operation Overboard is a huge success.
Infiltrating this gang of co-conspirators was an operation in itself, and it is pleasing to see all 11 offenders in this organised crime group jailed for their crimes.
‘Our officers have worked hard in a year-long investigation to unravel this crime gang, which was under the control of Sean Burrell, who employed criminal associates to further his criminality.
We have recovered cash, firearms and drugs following searches at addresses.
‘The trial of Thomas O’Brien was the first involving Encrochat data in Merseyside, and there have been many more since.
Despite him contesting using an Encrochat device his case went to trial, and the evidence against him was so strong that he was found guilty by a unanimous verdict in November.
‘I would ask anyone who has any information about who is supplying or selling drugs in their area to contact us so we can take action.’
This case is not the first time drugs have featured in festive decorations.