Footballer who became 'accountant' for £1m cannabis operation jailed

Footballer who became 'accountant' for £1m cannabis operation jailed

Former England Under-19s footballer who became ‘accountant’ for £1million cannabis trafficking operation wails ‘I can’t believe it’ as she is jailed for nearly four years

  • Faye Dunn, 38, was sentenced to 3 years and nine months in prison yesterday
  • The mother-of-two was arrested at Manchester Airport on June 13 this year 
  • Dunn pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cannabis and money laundering  
  • Accounting records showed a total income of £1,155,548 through the operation

Faye Dunn, 38, wailed ‘I can’t believe it’ as she was sent to prison yesterday

A successful businesswoman and semi-professional footballer who was found to be working as an accountant for a drug gang wailed ‘I can’t believe it’ as she was sent to prison yesterday.  

Faye Dunn, 38, once boasted a portfolio of companies across a range of sectors – including a restaurant and children’s play centre.

But now the young mum is beginning a prison stretch of nearly four years.

The mother-of-two and former England under-19s player became involved in a million-pound cannabis trafficking operation when her business ventures began to falter due to the impact of the pandemic – although evidence pointed to her money laundering exploits beginning in December 2019.

Liverpool Crown Court was told that her father Michael Dunn, 68, was also involved in the operation handling and supplying drugs on his child’s behalf – operating ‘below the level’ of his own daughter.

The court passed a two-year imprisonment suspended for two years on Michael Dunn ‘as a measure of mercy’. 

They operated using EncroChat – an encrypted communications platform commonly used by criminals.

Messages revealed that she had ‘involvement in the supply and production of cannabis’, being described as an ‘accountant for an organised criminal enterprise’ who had also smuggled cash to Spain – boarding a Portsmouth to Santander ferry with money hidden in her trousers. 

On April 2, she sent a user by the name of LedZeppelin an ‘image of what appeared to be a tick list or accounting record’ showing a total income of £1,155,548 – plus additional funds generated in Spain.

The balance sheet also documented expenditures totalling £431,700 – including £100,000 on a house, £25,000 on cars, a £21,500 watch and items of designer clothing adding up to £1,360. 

The mother-of-two became involved in a million-pound cannabis trafficking operation when her business ventures began to falter due to the impact of the pandemic

Her father Michael Dunn (pictured), 68, was also involved in the operation, handling and supplying drugs on his child’s behalf

Dunn started out as an up-and-coming football star 20 years ago as a promising teenager playing for England at youth level. 

After hanging up her boots, Dunn – a well-known figure in Huyton, Liverpool – set up Onside Sports Academy. 

Dunn’s footballing career 

At 18, helped her England team qualify for the semi-finals of the UEFA European Women’s U19 Championship.

She netted goals during two of the Lionesses’ group games during the tournament, against Denmark and Switzerland.

The ‘box-to-box midfielder’ turned out for Tranmere Rovers before joining Leeds United in 2003. 

One documented appearance for the former came after she bagged a hattrick against Southampton in November 2000, although Dunn was sent off while facing Doncaster Belles in March 2002.

She was later interviewed by Leeds ahead of a game with her former side. She said of the upcoming clash: ‘I enjoyed my time at Tranmere and always look out for their results, but I am a Leeds player now and we will all be going out determined to try to get three points for Leeds United Ladies.’

The community interest company supported young footballers released by clubs while trying to make it pro, ensuring that they secure gainful employment rather than going off the rails.

This was one of several directorships she would go on to hold. Companies House lists interests in a legal firm and a recruitment company.

Her business empire also extended to a restaurant and a popular children’s play centre. Over in Spain, she also held interest in an epoxy resin flooring supplier. 

At the start of 2020, Covid-19, lockdowns and their consequences saw Dunn’s businesses start to falter. 

Liverpool Crown Court heard that this was the catalyst for Dunn becoming involved in the underworld, although evidence pointed to her money laundering exploits beginning in December 2019.

She operated under the handle StiffNinja on the encrypted communications platform EncroChat, which was commonly deployed by criminals in keeping their dealings secret until the network was hacked by the authorities during 2020.

Nicola Daley, prosecuting, said: ‘She played an operational role within the drugs supply chain but appeared to have significant influence upon others in the chain, facilitating meetings between criminal associates in relation to the supply of controlled drugs, and also instructed others to undertake tasks such as the collection and movement of packages of both drugs and cash. 

‘Significantly, she appears to have acted as the accountant for the organised criminal enterprise and has concealed not only her EncroChat device but also cash when travelling abroad in order to evade detection by the authorities.’

Dunn, of Walpole Avenue in Whiston, was arrested at Manchester Airport on June 13 this year as part of Operation Venetic. She remained silent under interview but later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cannabis and money laundering.

‘Intelligent, resourceful, kind, loving, generous and sadly flawed’ Dunn wailed and said ‘I can’t believe it’ as she was led down to the cells, having been jailed for three years and nine months 

The fallen entrepreneur was seen to be in tears at various points during her sentencing hearing at Liverpool Crown Court yesterday, Tuesday. 

‘Intelligent, resourceful, kind, loving, generous and sadly flawed’ Dunn wailed and said ‘I can’t believe it’ as she was led down to the cells, having been jailed for three years and nine months.

Sentencing, Judge David Potter said: ‘It is necessary at the outset to remark to you and others of the harm caused by trafficking cannabis. Cannabis can have profound, lasting effects on the brain.

‘Recent events in this city show how innocent people can get caught in the spiral of violence of organised crime groups. Quite simply, cannabis dependency wrecks lives.

‘It was into this trade that you have both willingly participated with the sole intention of significant financial reward. I accept that you are a woman of effectively good character – a highly intelligent, successful, motivated sportswoman, entrepreneur and mother of high achieving children.

‘You came to this trade as a result of the failure of your businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic. You took your considerable management skills into the trade of drugs.

‘It is a tragedy to see a young woman facing a sentence of imprisonment after leading a life full of past and continuing achievements. You should have been thinking about your two young children when you became involved in serious organised crime.’  

Father Michael Dunn, 68, was also involved in the operation, handling and supplying drugs on his child’s behalf. 

Ms Daley added: ‘It is the prosecution’s case that Michael Dunn willingly carried out the handling, movement and supply of cannabis for his daughter Faye.   

‘He also met up with other handles and arranged meetings in order to transfer money.’

In one message sent by Faye Dunn to her dad on March 28 2020, she asked: ‘You reckon you can move five trees from by you over to me mate, or too risky?’

He replied: ‘Not tonight, roads too quiet. Can do it tomorrow.’

On the same day, she told a user by the name of VigilantSmith: ‘Will bring the trees and collect the dough but have to be near Deeside, tell him. If your mate from Wrexham can get the dough to near where I live I’ll pass him the trees and grab the dough.’   

Michael Dunn has 23 previous convictions for 39 offences. In 1986, he was jailed in the Netherlands in connection with burglaries and was later deported.

The pensioner was then jailed for nine years in Portugal in 2009 for drug importation charges. This came after he was stopped in a van while transporting 2.5kg of cannabis into Spain.

His defence counsel William England told the court that he is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and also suffers from cardiovascular and mobility issues. Mr England added: ‘He is no longer a young man, in fact quite the opposite.

‘The offences are now almost three years old. This defendant has accepted his part in this conspiracy.

‘He played a facilitative role and he was obviously being paid a small amount for his troubles. He was in a desperate place financially.’

The court passed a two-year imprisonment suspended for two years on Michael Dunn ‘as a measure of mercy’.

Judge Potter added: ‘The court is dismayed that in your late 60s, you have reverted to offending. You operated below the level of your daughter.

‘You were prepared to travel about during lockdown restrictions to handle the supply of kilo amounts of cannabis of behalf of others. You are not in good health at all.

‘By the narrowest of margins, your sentence will be suspended. I will remember the day I gave you this suspended sentence.’

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