The talented boxer turned to selling drugs after befriending a “slick” criminal in prison

Craig O’Brien, 33, of Rochdale, could have had a promising career as a boxer but was introduced to a “more sophisticated criminal” while serving a five-year sentence over a “neighborhood row” in 2010

Craig O'Brien, now 33, had a promising career as a boxer, even representing Britain before he was "taken under the wing" from a "sophisticated criminal" in prison and turned to drug dealing
Craig O’Brien, now 33, had a promising boxing career and even represented Britain before being “taken under the wing” in prison by a “more sophisticated criminal” and turned to drug dealing

A former boxer who competed for England missed his chance at a “promising career” after turning to the murky world of drug dealing.

Craig O’Brien, 33, of Rochdale, Greater Manchester, was first sentenced in 2010 to five years in prison for a “neighborhood row”.

But while he was being “taken under the wing” of a “more sophisticated criminal” behind bars, Manchester evening news reports.

O’Brien then became a link in the drug supply chain and is now back in prison after pleading guilty to trafficking five kilos of cocaine.

The 33-year-old was arrested last summer on suspicion of drug-related offenses, but the police then discovered far more than originally expected.

In June, investigators found incriminating messages on two of his phones via encrypted messaging service Wickr.

O’Brien was jailed again, this time for four years and eight months, after pleading guilty to trafficking five kilos of cocaine in Minshull Street Crown Court


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O’Brien spoke to contacts about how much cocaine they planned to buy; the quality of the drug; and prices, Minshull Street Crown Court heard.

In other news, he said he could get new devices for his employees after the Europe-wide hack into the Encrochat network in June 2020.

Tom Challinor, prosecutor, said messages had been recovered on the Wickr app.

“Included in those messages were images of pounds of cocaine pressed into blocks, some with embossed logos indicating its origin,” he said.

“One account asks the defendant about a ‘job’ for a friend who will shop from him if he ‘likes’ it and there’s an opportunity to ‘get 25 for a kilo’.

“The user suggested that if his customer liked it, he could resell the medicines for Mr. O’Brien and make Mr. O’Brien some money.”

In other messages, the account called for cuts to break down the drug.

The court heard messages from an associate of O’Brien’s who wanted to supply him with drugs, saying there were “three of something for 37.25”.

The conclusion was that there was three kilos of cocaine for £37,250, the court heard.

The next morning, O’Brien was in conversations with other users about flogging the drug – including “Twittwoo2018”, “NOlive89” and “Dupree01234”.

“Another conversation on June 10 was uncovered where another user – ‘MrH197’ – was talking to ‘MrH’ about money [the defendant] owed him,” Mr Chalinor told the court.

“‘MrH’ noted that the ‘boss’ said the defendant had what ‘Mr H’ owed him.

“He also said that ‘MrH’ could do 100 a week – the implication being 100 kilos of cocaine. It was agreed that Mr O’Brien dealt five kilos of cocaine.”

The court heard there was more news suggesting O’Brien could get more encrypted devices after the Encrochat platform was hacked.

He was arrested in December last year and gave a police interview without comment.

O’Brien was reportedly convicted of assault in October 2010, for which he was sentenced to five years in prison.

Mitigatingly, Imran Shafi QC said: “In 2010 he was a young man, he went to prison for five years, he was young then.

“It was a neighbor dispute that escalated and he lost his promising boxing career for England.

“While he was in prison, he was taken under the wing of someone more sophisticated.”

Mr Shafi said his client was described as a “considerate and kind man” in his character references.

He said the time in prison would allow O’Brien to “reflect on his life”.

In sentencing, Judge Maurice Greene said: “The evidence against you stems essentially from telephone messages that took place between you and either people you supply or others you supply.

“And the news took the form of discussions about how much cocaine you could get and at what price. Many thousands of pounds maybe.

“The prosecution agreed that it was a quantity of five kilos over this specific period.

“I have read your character references and letter and you are repentant and you have worked and been a valued member of society. They faced significant difficulties.

“This allows me to reduce the starting position of such cases.”

O’Brien, of Moorland Crescent, was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

A hearing on the Proceeds of Crime Act has been set for June 30th.

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