A DRUG dealer from Warwick was caught out after police found messages on his phone sent to a ‘runner’ he had working for him.
And at Warwick Crown Court a jury rejected claims by Imlah Johnson the messages related to legitimate items.
Johnson 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.
In February 2018 police stopped Johnson in Warwick in the early hours of the morning.
After smelling cannabis, they searched the car and found a small amount of herbal cannabis and a small amount of crack cocaine.
The 38-year-old was arrested and when 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 had not used it.
After examination, two of them were found to have messages on them suggesting Johnson was involved in the supply of drugs.
In March, Johnson was arrested again at his home, and five small bags of cannabis were found, he again said were for personal use, and another phone.
Further analysis showed all four phones had common contacts stored in them.
Prosecutor Graeme Simpson told the jury the small quantities were consistent with personal use but given the messages on all three phones, ‘without a doubt’ he was involved in the supply of drugs.
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 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 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.”