Irish mafia dad with a taste for hamburgers and hand grenades
On the surface Thomas Maher was just another successful businessman who loved fast food and fast cars. Maher’s home in the suburbs of Warrington was smart but not the kind of sprawling mansion that attracted the wrong kind of attention. But Maher was happy to spend tens of thousands of pounds on cars, lavish holidays to Mexico and a second home in Spain.
: Warning message that sparked terror in the criminal underworld He loved fast food and was seen ordering up to five meals delivered to his door in one day. Gourmet burgers were a real favourite.
However behind the fun loving veneer Maher was no ordinary Warrington dad. Maher was a facilitator for an Irish based organised crime gang who specialised in moving drugs across the continent. But Maher’s world became compromised after he sold a truck to Irish crook Ronan Hughes, who used it to smuggle a trailer of Vietnamese migrants into the UK.
By the time the truck arrived at Purfleet port in Essex the 39 migrants had been asphyxiated. Although the National Crime Agency (NCA) could not link Maher directly to the terrible crime, he was now on their radar. However it was Maher’s use of the secretive EncroChat phone network that led to his downfall.
When a French led operation managed to access the servers that hosted the network, everything changed. The NCA would soon be able to read Maher’s messages revealing his role as a key facilitator for a dangerous transnational crime group. Maher, who used the Encro handle Satirical, also discussed “pineapples” which the NCA believed was a reference to hand-grenades.
Undated handout photo issued by National Crime Agency of wealthy haulage boss Thomas Maher (Image: PA)
The Warrington dad was not charged with any firearms offences.
However some of the messages revealed that Maher was using his influence in the underworld to organise a revenge attack on Ronan Hughes. Maher suspected that Hughes might offer up information about him, and he wanted the crook punished for “dragging me into this mess.” When the NCA realised there was a credible plot to harm Hughes they intervened to protect him.
Maher was then arrested at his home address in Woolston on suspicion of drug offences. Earlier this year the NCA released some of the messages Maher sent to his criminal associates on the EncroChat network. Just like Curtis Warren in the 1990s, Maher used a lexicon of slang terms when discussing drugs and serious crime.
Police outside the house of Thomas Maher in Wiltshire Close, Warrington (Image: PA)
Cocaine was referred to as ‘tops’ and ‘posh’, while ‘bobs’ was used for heroin.
Ecstasy and cannabis were referred to as ‘polly’ and ‘jackets.’ Holland was referred to as the ‘Flat’ , Spain was the ‘Sun’ and the Republic of Ireland was ‘Home.’ HGV lorries used to move drugs around Europe were ‘taxis’, hiding places on lorries on HGVs were ‘slots’ and cash was ‘paperwork.’ Firearms and drugs were sometimes referred to as ‘bits.’
Further messages revealed that Maher was playing a central role in the movement of drugs around the world, such as exporting Colombian cocaine to Africa. Maher also expressed an awareness of rival crime factions in Scandinavia. Satirical: “They say massive money over there m8 also m8 they say Sweden is a good place for work money is ment to be big bit a lot of Albanian c**** have it wrapped up there . . and why not do Africa to BG and BG to the flat m8 .”
The messages also revealed how , like any businessman, Maher was working hard to cope with the extra pressures from Covid and lockdown restrictions. The Warrington man was proud of his 20 year experience in the drug trade and wanted others to know that he “knew the ways.”
Thomas Maher is facing a lengthy jail term (Image: NCA)
After Maher was sentenced in December last year senior officers at the NCA spoke about the role he played as a “logistics man” who helped “notorious” crime groups. Maher, originally from County Offaly in Leinster, was then charged with conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm in relation to the messages he sent about Hughes.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge and Liverpool Crown court ruled for the charge to lay on file. Maher admitted two offences of conspiring with others unknown to import Class A drugs into Ireland between March 28 and April 6 2020. He also admitted two charges of conspiring with others unknown to transfer criminal property in Ireland between April 3 and May 11.
Judge David Aubrey jailed Maher for 14 years and eight months and handed him a Serious Crime Prevention Order lasting four years. Speaking after the sentencing NCA branch commander Martin Clarke said: “Maher moved in the highest criminal circles, acting as a logistics man for some of the UK, Ireland and Europe’s most notorious organised crime groups who trusted him with their drugs and money. “We believe the offences he has been convicted of represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of his overall criminality.
He bragged in EncroChat messages about being involved in organised crime for over 20 years, during which time it’s highly likely he shipped tonnes of drugs and tens of millions of pounds around Europe. “After a painstaking investigation, we have been able to bring him to justice. And that investigation has not stopped.
We will use all the tools available to hit him where it hurts – in the pocket – to ensure he can’t continue his luxury lifestyle when he’s released.”
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