Operation Venetic – 26 year sentence for commercial scale drug dealer at the hub of major conspiracies
A man from Bath who organised the supply of at least £3 million worth of cocaine to the South West and boasted to his contacts that his gun had “a silencer…the whole shebang” has been jailed for 26 years.
Romaine Hyman, 30, previously of Portland Place, Bath, was found guilty of 18 offences at Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday (15 February) and was sentenced today.
Hyman became a key target in a South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SW ROCU) investigation following Operation Venetic, the UK law enforcement response to the takedown of encrypted messaging service EncroChat.
Using the handle ‘Locksmith-rome’, Hyman operated at the centre of four conspiracies to supply cocaine and heroin from London and the Midlands to the South West and two conspiracies to launder the millions of pounds made from that supply. He not only sourced and supplied multi-kilo quantities of drugs, but also smaller supplies to regular customers. He even cooked cocaine himself to produce crack cocaine to sell, and supplied heroin, MDMA and ketamine.
Hyman was arrested on 29 May 2020 after receiving a delivery of seven kilo blocks of cocaine from London and taking them to Leon Reid’s Bath flat. He sent a photo of the Fendi blocks with the words “Landed safe thank you” to his London supplier. That was his final Encro message as five minutes later, as he left the flat, he was arrested.
When officers searched Reid’s flat, they not only found the Fendi cocaine, but also a padlocked suitcase containing a handgun, 25 rounds of ammunition, a silencer, a kit to adapt the weapon to function as a submachine gun, £23,000 stashed in a drawer, a money counter, and equipment Hyman used to cook his crack cocaine. He also paid to use two other Bath addresses, one in Twerton where £24,000 was seized from inside a safe, and one in Snow Hill where 54g cocaine, 3.7kg crystallised MDMA, 3,000 MDMA tablets, one kilo of ketamine, 200g of cutting agent and a hydraulic press were seized.
Leon Reid, 27, of Longmead Terrace, was arrested the same day and has been sentenced to 21 months, suspended for 18 months, and 220 hours unpaid work for allowing his flat to be used by Hyman to produce cocaine and for receiving payment, which text messages showed amounted to £500 a month. He was found not guilty of concealing criminal property and three firearms offences, which all related to the items seized from his flat.
Jevaughn Rose, 28, from St Michaels Avenue in Nottingham, was arrested in October 2020 and found guilty of conspiracy to launder money and possession of £15,500 criminal cash found at his home. He was found not guilty of conspiracy to supply 15 kilos of cocaine. He was sentenced to three years.
A fourth man, Sheikh Maruf Rouf, 35, of no fixed abode, was sentenced last September to three years in prison after pleading guilty to money laundering and possessing criminal property. He was arrested in April 2020 after collecting £300,000 cash from Hyman in Bath to deliver to London and went on to admit his role in conspiring to launder £4.4 million made through serious criminal activity.
Detective Inspector Charlotte Tucker from the SW ROCU said: “Hyman was a major supplier of class A drugs into and out of the South West and the images of the piles of cash represent just how much harm that supply will have caused, with each £10 and £20 note representing a separate deal.
“Add in the gun, silencer and ammunition stashed in a flat in the middle of Bath and you get a picture of the level he was operating at and the risk he posed.
“The Encro messages not only show Hyman’s role in sourcing 89kg of cocaine, but his aspirations to become a dominant force in drug supply in the South West, with plans being made to import hundreds of kilograms at a time.
“While the takedown of EncroChat was a huge moment in terms of turning the tables on criminals like Hyman and his associates, that evidence was just one part of a complex investigation. We still had to prove Hyman was ‘Locksmith-rome’, which involved painstaking work across our teams.
“Twenty-two guilty verdicts after a ten-week trial are testament to the hard work and dedication across the SW ROCU and our collaboration with the Organised Crime Division of the CPS.”
Ruona Iguyovwe, CPS senior specialist prosecutor, said: “Romaine Hyman and his collaborators thought he was operating in secret, but thanks to our work with international partners we were able to decode and dismantle his criminal operation.
“He had an utter disregard for the wider impact the drugs he supplied to the South West would have on those communities and wanted to hide how he was making money to look legitimate.
“Thanks to the good investigative work and collaboration with our prosecution team, we’ve been able to bring Hyman and his associates to justice.”
Chief Inspector Steve Kendall, B&NES Neighbourhood and Partnerships Lead for Avon and Somerset Police, said: “Today’s sentencings are a culmination of years of intensive investigative work by the SW ROCU and a number of law-enforcement agencies and we welcome the significant jail terms handed down to dangerous and exploitative criminals.
“We’d like to reassure our communities that we will never stop our proactive work to disrupt drug lines across Avon and Somerset. We are hugely grateful to members of the public for their invaluable support and crucial information that helps us tackle this important aspect of policing.
“Our message to anyone involved in the illegal supply of drugs is simple; we will continue to relentlessly pursue you and we will do everything in our power to bring you to justice.”
Confiscation orders will be made to ensure all money and assets gained from the crimes committed are recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Applications will also be made for Serious Organised Crime Prevention Orders (SOCPOs) to prevent the defendants’ involvement in such crime in the future.
Toni Swaby, 41, of Landseer Road, Twerton, was found not guilty of concealing criminal property and acquiring criminal property.