The police intelligence analyst was put behind bars for divulging to criminals that their chats on the EncroChat app were being monitored in a massive police operation, leading to more than 6,000 arrests.
Natalie Mottram, 25, was jailed for almost four years after she was found guilty of leaking secret information on Operation Venetic, which was the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) UK-led response to the takedown of the encrypted communications platform EncroChat, widely used by organized crime groups.
Mottram was working as an intelligence analyst for the North West Regional Organized Crime Unit (ROCU) on secondment from Cheshire Police.
The analyst informed her criminal associate, Jonathan Kay, aged 39, about the undercover operation and law enforcement gathering intelligence on him.
On April 24th, 2020, a friend of Kay’s, who cannot be named for legal reasons, messaged another EncroChat user, revealing that on that day, he had become aware of law enforcement infiltrating the platform.
He messaged a second contact: “I no [sic] a lady who works for the police. This is not hearsay. Direct to me. They can access Encro software. And are using it to intercept forearms [sic] only at the moment. There [sic] software runs 48 hours behind real-time. So have ur burns one day max. And try to avoid giving postcodes over it.”
He added: “Her words were are you on Encro, I said no, why, I only sell a bit of bud. She said cool, just giving you a heads up. Because NCA now has access. But she wouldn’t lie.”
Police suspected that Mottram was responsible for the leak of secret information and set her up. On June 12th, 2020, NCA’s officers arrested her. In Liverpool Crown Court, Mottram pleaded guilty to charges of misconduct in public office, obstructing the course of justice, and unauthorized access to computer material.
“Her corrupt actions had the potential to hugely damage the overarching investigation by alerting offenders of the need to abandon EncroChat and cover their tracks,” commented on a case John McKeon, head of the NCA’s anti-corruption unit.
“Operation Venetic was the deepest and broadest operation against organised crime the UK has ever seen, and has taken huge numbers of dangerous offenders off the streets. But Mottram clearly didn’t care about that. Her actions were disgraceful,” said he.
Judicial and law enforcement agencies remain highly concerned about the ongoing unlawful use of encrypted communications. The dismantling of the EncroChat has so far led to 6,558 arrests worldwide.
Since the successful takedown supported by Eurojust and Europol, close to €900 million in criminal funds have been seized or frozen.
This "once-in-a-generation" operation resulted in the seizure of 103.5 tonnes of cocaine, 163.4 tonnes of cannabis, 3.3 tonnes of heroin, 923 weapons, 83 boats, 40 planes, 30.5 million pills of chemical drugs, and the forfeiture of 271 estates or homes.
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