THREE MEN – including two from Coventry – have been jailed for a total of 35 years for importing illegal firearms and ammunition into the UK via the postal system.
The trio had planned to sell the two semi-automatic pistols and hollow-point bullets to organised criminals but they were intercepted at a Midlands parcel hub on January 24 last year.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) launched an investigation after the weapons – concealed in an electronic safe in a package labelled ‘car parts’ – had been imported from Orlando, Flrida.
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. N
CA 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 he had arranged the importation with a contact known as ‘Shotta’ based in Florida.
The messages also showed 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 assured him they would ‘make a lot of money’.
Prior to the gun’s arrival, Roberts sent messages about bringing in two G40s, adding he had sold two.
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 January 11, 2020. Officers recovered a photo from Joseph’s phone taken that morning of him holding the gun.
Phone records showed Roberts and Joseph were actively searching for buyers whilst simultaneously organising 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 travelled together to hide the safe.
With Roberts in custody and evidence secured against his co-conspirators, NCA armed officers arrested Caines and Joseph on March 5, 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 instill 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.”