Jailed: Warwick drug dealer caught out after police checked his phone messages

He has been sent to prison for three-and-a-half years

A Warwick drug dealer was caught out after the police checked his phone and found messages sent to a ‘runner’ he had working for him.

And at Warwick Crown Court a jury rejected claims by Imlah Johnson that the messages related to legitimate items.

Johnson (38) of Yeats Drive, Warwick, was jailed for three-and-a-half years after being found guilty of charges of being concerned in the supply a cocaine, heroin and cannabis.

Imlah Johnson

Prosecutor Graeme Simpson said that in February 2018 the police stopped Johnson as he was driving a Volvo in Warwick in the early hours of the morning.

As they spoke to him, they could smell cannabis, so carried out a search of the car and found a small amount of herbal

cannabis in a little pot and a small amount of crack cocaine.

Johnson was arrested, and when he was interviewed he admitted possessing the drugs, claiming they were for his personal use.

The officers had also seized three mobile phones, two of which he accepted were his, but the third he claimed had been in the car when he had bought it a few weeks earlier - and that although he had switched it on, he had not used it.

All three phones were examined, and Mr Simpson said that two of them had messages on them which suggested that Johnson was involved in the supply of drugs.

As a result, on March 8 Johnson was arrested again at his home, and five small bags of cannabis were found, which he again said were for personal use, together with another phone.

Further analysis showed that all four phones had common contacts stored within them, which Mr Simpson said ‘suggests that they were all used by the same person.’

And he told the jury: “We accept the modest quantities of drugs seized from the defendant are consistent with personal use, that’s why he’s not charged with possession with intent to supply.

“However, we say that the numerous messages on three phones show without any doubt that he was involved in the supply of drugs and that he offered to supply drugs.”

Johnson claimed during the trial that the messages on his phones had been misinterpreted, and that they related to the sale of legitimate products – but that was rejected by the jury.

Following an adjournment for a pre-sentence report to be prepared on Johnson, Mr Simpson observed: “The way the evidence had developed, it was apparent he had others, or at least one other, acting for him as what is colloquially known as runners.

“This was clearly a proper commercial enterprise, and he was doing the best he could to expand his business.”

Recorder Robin Sellers observed that the messages had been sent over a relatively short period, and there had been ‘an inordinate delay’ between Johnson being arrested and when he was finally charged 17 months later.

But he told Nick Devine, defending: “The messages indicate that Mr Johnson was facilitating a drug trade.

“There was clearly someone above him who was supplying them, but he was issuing messages and instructions to a runner, including motivational messages about marketing the drugs.”

Mr Devine conceded that Johnson was facing ‘a custodial sentence of some substance,’ but pointed out that the majority of the messages related to cannabis, rather than to class A drugs.

Jailing Johnson, whose previous convictions included one for possessing cannabis, Recorder Sellers told him: “The jury rejected your explanation that these messages referred to innocuous products.

“You were in an organisational role. There was clearly someone you were ordering supplies from, and you indicated to your runner what was going to be available, and that’s how they got onto the market.

“It was a business which was dealing to the end user on a retail basis.

“I note from the pre-sentence report that you still contest your innocence.

“This case is so serious that only a custodial sentence can be justified, but I am going to take into account that there was an inordinate delay.”