Three men have been jailed for a total of 35 years for importing illegal firearms and ammunition into the UK in the post, before trying to sell them to organized criminals.
The National Crime Agency launched an investigation after two semi-automatic pistols and hollow-point bullets were intercepted at a parcel hub in the Midlands on 24 January 2020. Border Force officers recovered the weapons, which had been concealed in an electronic safe in a package labeled as car parts, sent from Orlando, Florida.
The parcel was addressed to a ‘John Bob Walton’ in Cambridge. Five days later, a man claiming to be Walton called Parcelforce asking where it was. NCA investigators traced the number back to Dion Roberts, 33, from Coventry.
Roberts and a second man, Keston Joseph, 33, were stopped by NCA officers, supported by West Midlands Police, on 31 January 2020 while driving on King William Street in Coventry. Both were arrested.
Joseph was released under investigation but Roberts was remanded in custody and his phone seized. Analysis of his messages showed that he had arranged the importation with a contact known as ‘Shotta’ who was based in Florida.
The messages also showed that they had successfully imported another semi-automatic pistol two weeks prior to Roberts’ arrest, using the same method. In audio messages, Roberts instructed Shotta to send the weapon in a safe that was insulated with carbon paper and to “just show them as car parts innit”.
He also assured him, “We make a lot o’ money bro. we make a lot of paper, a lotta lotta o’ paper there to be made”.
Prior to the gun’s arrival, Roberts sent the following messages to an unknown prospective buyer:
“Had two G40 but sold have two more comings next week… Normally 5 I will give you for 4 500 new brands… or you tell me what you want and I bring it in.”
He also spoke to a French contact about importing weapons over there. Roberts said:
“With a lot of terrorist acts going on – I know the security level over there is high – but that’s something I’m gonna try and find out how to get them over there… the man we dealing with right now… the man’s loaded.”
Roberts and Joseph collected the package containing the first weapon on 11 January 2020. Officers recovered a photo from Joseph’s phone taken that morning of him holding the gun.
Phone records showed that following this, Roberts and Joseph were actively searching for buyers whilst simultaneously organizing the shipment of the second package.
This time, Roberts asked Shotta to include five rounds of ammunition with each gun. When Shotta warned against this as he thought they would give off a ‘certain smell’, Roberts told him this wouldn’t matter due to the insulation in the safe.
Roberts made contact with the third man, Dashan Caines, 46, from Birmingham, to bring him in on the conspiracy. Communication between them and Joseph was ongoing and investigations revealed they all traveled together to hide the safe.
With Roberts in custody and evidence secured against his co-conspirators, NCA armed officers arrested Caines and Joseph on 5 March 2020.
The safe was recovered two months later hidden in a bush near Roberts’ home with the firearm still inside. When NCA forensic scientists analysed the weapon, they discovered Caines’ DNA on it.
Roberts pleaded guilty to conspiring to acquire and sell prohibited weapons and ammunition. Caines and Joseph were found guilty of the same offences following a five week trial.
Today at Birmingham Crown Court, Roberts was sentenced to 12 years in prison, Joseph to 14 years and Caines to nine years.
NCA Branch Commander Mick Pope, said:
“These men planned to build a business on selling illegal weapons to other criminals. They saw this only as a money-making scheme, paying no consideration to the danger firearms pose to the public.
“Criminals who own firearms – often those behind the supply of illegal drugs – use them to instil fear, inflict violence and in some cases, to kill.
“The success of this investigation reinforces our commitment to protect the public and tackle this threat.
“We will continue to work with key partners, such as Border Force, to prevent illegal firearms from entering the UK.”