A father and son who ran a cannabis production business secured a government bounce back loan to boost production.
Brian Maxwell and his son Brian junior were recently jailed for over 30 years for drug offences. Brian, 54, was jailed for 13 years and 4 months while his son was locked up for 18 years and four months.
Liverpool Crown Court heard how Brian junior used the EncroChat network to try and buy assault rifles to defend himself from a rival drug gang. Both men had received threat to life warnings from Merseyside Police.
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Nicola Daley, prosecuting, told the court how the father and son were both involved in the production of industrial quantities of cannabis. The ECHO can now reveal how the Maxwells secured a government loan during the first pandemic to buy more homes where they could store and grow cannabis.
Ms Daley revealed how Brian Maxwell senior used the Bounce Back Loan scheme to buy up more properties to expand their cannabis business. During the first pandemic Ms Daley said that Brian senior, originally from south Liverpool, secured a loan worth around £50,000 to buy an extra two or three properties.
Around 1.5 million businesses were assisted through the Bounce Back Loan Scheme. The scheme was launched to help businesses that were forced to close during the pandemic.
Ms Daley told the short how the Maxwells were sophisticated operators who went to great lengths to ensure their cannabis grows did not attract unwanted attention. She said that the two men employed gardeners to tend the lawns in front of the grows to avoid attracting suspicion from neighbours.
The Maxwells also used light timers in their grow homes to give the impression they were occupied. They also ensured the homes were fully furnished.
On April 1 2020, Brian Maxwell Jnr sent an Encro message to his dad which read: “Wat are you going to do with the bird in the gaff that was meant to be out last month that’s probably another 100 planter, maybe a bit more. “
Prosecutors believed the Maxwells wanted to transform their buy to let sites into cannabis grows where they could make more money. There was also evidence that the Maxwells were tampering with their electricity supply.
Brian junior sent a message to an associate which read: “Is the lecky done on both them gaffs mate.” His associate confirmed they were ‘both on the fiddle.’
The father and son received threats to life warnings from Merseyside Police on May 27 2020. The court heard that Brian junior had been accused of stealing drugs from a rival crime group.
Maxwell senior, of Stockswell Road, Tarbock Green, and Maxwell junior, of Ditchfield Road, Widnes, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply diarmorphine, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine and conspiracy to produce cannabis.
Maxwell jnr admitted conspiring to possess, purchase or acquire prohibited firearms, between March 27, 2020 and June 6, 2020. He also admitted possession of prohibited firearms.
Judge David Aubrey, QC, told the father and son that they had assumed they were protected from the law through their use of Encrochat phones. He said: “The phones proved to be your downfall.”
A Government spokesperson said: “While we do not comment on individual cases, we’re continuing to work to crack down on COVID support scheme fraud. We will not tolerate those who seek to defraud consumers and taxpayers.
“Our COVID support schemes were implemented at unprecedented speed to protect millions of jobs and businesses at a time when families needed it the most. Last year, lenders reported preventing nearly £2.2 billion in potential fraud from the Bounce Back Loan Scheme.”