Ryan McDowell -who was a youth player for Manchester City – and his cronies delivered piles of drugs cash stuffed into suitcases and bin bags to other criminals
A former Manchester City player was jailed for five years for directing a drug money laundering racket.
Ryan McDowell -who was a youth player for Manchester City – and his cronies delivered piles of drugs cash stuffed into suitcases and bin bags to other criminals.
The technique is known as ‘cuckoo smurfing’, which allows criminals to move cash from one bank to another undetected.
McDowell, 33, of Rainhill, was jailed at Liverpool Crown Court after being observed channelling at least £550,000 through the ‘professional’ network of money launderers, and an additional £142,000 through his own bank accounts.
Judge Alan Conrad, QC, sentencing, told him: ‘Yours was the leading role of the defendants before the court, in which you were directing operations and dealing in considerable sums of cash – carrying on over a period of time — undeterred by stops or seizures.
‘Your fall from grace has been spectacular. Having had a once promising career with a Premier League football club you now find yourself facing a long prison sentence.’
Mark Dillon, 55, of East Orchard Lane, Fazakerley, and taxi driver Robert Sloan, 46, of Steeple View, Kirkby, were also jailed for 26 months and 12 months respectively for making and organising huge deliveries of cash under orders from McDowell.
Receiving the cash were Muhammed Ikram, 46, from High Street North, East Ham, London, and Syed Abbas, 56, of Corporation Road in Newport — who operated a money laundering ‘nerve centre’ from a tiny flat in Manchester.
Receiving the cash were Muhammed Ikram (right), and Syed Abbas (left), who operated a money laundering ‘nerve centre’ from a tiny flat in Manchester.
Ikram was jailed for 28 months and Abbas for 16 months.
McDowell’s then girlfriend, Ashleigh Garrett, 29, of Martin Close in Rainhill, was spared jail and handed a 26 week prison term, suspended for two years, and 150 hours unpaid work, for allowing him to deposit dirty money in her bank account.
Philip Astbury, prosecuting, told the court: ‘Between December, 3, 2013, and the June 14, 2014, Ryan McDowall was a leading figure within an organised crime group operating out of the Liverpool area.
‘As a consequence of his criminal activities he generated large volumes of street cash which he then sought to launder.
‘In order to do so, he sought the services of a number of individuals around the country who were operating professional and sophisticated money laundering schemes.
Mark Dillon (left) and taxi driver Robert Sloan (right) were also jailed for 26 months and 12 months respectively for making and organising huge deliveries of cash under orders from McDowell
‘The evidence suggests that the proceeds of crime involved were generated through drug trafficking.’
The court heard Dillon, with the help of a man named Stephen Cavanagh, arranged deliveries of around £320,000 to criminals based in London and Bolton in December 2013.
But after police arrested Cavanagh and a man named Irfam Buma, the money launderers based in London travelled to Merseyside and met McDowell in Rainhill.
On the way back from the meeting, two cars used by the men, named as Shah, Patel and Parmar, were stopped by Merseyside Police and £78,600 was discovered stashed in a shoe box.
Mr Astbury told the court that cash was analysed by a forensic expert and found to be contaminated with an unusually high level of cocaine.
Cash seized during money laundering investigation into former Manchester City footballer Ryan McDowell
But despite his operation being stung twice, McDowell continued and by June 2014 had enlisted the help of Robert Sloan.
However, Sloan, who is already serving a six year prison sentence, was under surveillance for a separate conspiracy involving paying crooked police officer Barry Parkinson for information.
Mr Astbury said Sloan and McDowell were recorded discussing a cash delivery via a bug planted in Sloan’s car as part of the other operation.
On June 12 and 13, 2014, Sloan travelled to Manchester to meet Ikram, and was observed handing over a suitcase in Albert Road, by the Desi Point restaurant.
The court heard the flat contained false identification documents, a cash counting machine, a safe stuffed with £33,000 cash, and numerous banking records
Ikram and Abbas were then observed taking the case to a flat around the corner in Buckhurst Road.
The pair were observed on both days travelling around Manchester depositing cash into banks.
The court heard the flat contained false identification documents, a cash counting machine, a safe stuffed with £33,000 cash, and numerous banking records.
Ikram was stopped by police after depositing £11,300 into a HSBC bank, while the flat was raided and found to contain £93,000 from the suitcase delivered by Sloan.
The court heard Ikram and Abbas used two techniques to launder the cash.
The second, ‘cuckoo smurfing’ or third-party payments, involves criminals hiding transactions in the bank accounts of innocent individuals or businesses
One, known as smurfing, simply involved breaking large amounts of cash down and depositing in small amounts across various banks.
The second, ‘cuckoo smurfing’ or third-party payments, involves criminals hiding transactions in the bank accounts of innocent individuals or businesses.
The four men admitted conspiracy to enter into the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property, with McDowell admitting an additional count of concealing/transferring criminal property.
Garrett admitted one count of concealing/transferring criminal property.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Reardon, of Merseyside Police, said: ‘This was a long-running and complex investigation, which centred on the suspected involvement of McDowell and others in serious and organised crime, and the laundering of the large-scale proceeds of this crime.
‘Working with specialist financial detectives, and closely alongside partners and various police forces, we were able to prove this conspiracy and in doing so, take organised criminals from the streets, who are intent to cause misery in Merseyside and beyond.’