20 April 2017
Three gun smugglers have been convicted of importing illegal firearms through the post after an NCA investigation.
Aaron Bishop, 39, and Martin Beard, 38, took delivery of guns ordered by lynchpin Mark Richards, 38, via the dark web.
Father-of-two Richards, of Cramhurst Lane, Godalming, admitted conspiring to import prohibited Glock handguns and ammunition.
A jury at Birmingham Crown Court convicted Beard and Bishop of importing firearms but cleared them of importing ammunition.
(Left to right) Mark Richards, Aaron Bishop, Martin Beard
Beard admitted production of cannabis and Bishop admitted possessing indecent images of children after National Crime Agency officers discovered a memory stick buried in his garden while searching his home in Andover Way, Aldershot on 23 October 2013.
It contained 31 category A child abuse images (the most serious), two category B images and 26 category C images.
Bishop admitted the USB stick contained the pictures and that he was “a bit of a paedophile”. He also told investigators: “I thought you guys would be round for something else.”
Today, Richards was jailed for five years and four months.
Beard was sentenced to four years and six months, and eight months concurrent for the cannabis offence.
Bishop was jailed for four years and 10 months and received six months concurrent for the child abuse images.
In 2013 the NCA began working with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and US Postal Inspection Service to investigate the dark web trafficking group sending guns to the UK.
After Bishop signed for one delivery at an Aldershot postal office on 4 October 2013 a warrant was executed at his home on 23 October and he was arrested and taken into custody.
Seized items included mobile phones, two laptops, a live shotgun cartridge and piece of paper with details of the selling website.
In interview, Bishop claimed he thought the parcel was cannabis and said he had never owned a gun.
The firearm was never recovered but was a Glock handgun, investigators said.
Further evidence was provided by Bishop’s ex-housemate who reported a delivery containing thirty 9mm live Luger Geco rounds sent from Germany almost two weeks before.
Beard was arrested on 24 October 2013.
A parcel sent to him containing a Glock with two magazines of ammunition was intercepted by NCA investigators, the jury heard.
Beard said he thought the delivery contained t-shirts he expected from America.
Analysis of the defendants’ phones and computers showed they knew each other and discussed the purchases and identified Richards as the organiser.
They referred to guns as “washing machines” and joked about “seeing you in five” – which investigators believe was a reference to potential jail time for possessing a Glock.
Extensive foreign enquiries and cell site and telecoms analysis resulted in the trio being charged in 2016 and Richards pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
Senior investigating officer Dawn Cartwright of NCA’s border policing command, said: “Richards used Beard and Bishop to accept the guns because he believed they were off law enforcement’s radar.
“It has been a long wait to put these men before the court and we are very pleased with the jury’s decision.
“We will continue to target and pursue those supplying illegal guns regardless of how long it takes.”