A KFC worker with a first class Honours degree has been jailed for setting up a multi-million pound drugs empire after he became disillusioned with his fast-food job.
Paul Johnson, 32, masterminded the Breaking Bad-style operation he ran from the loft of the modest semi-detached house he shared with his wife and child.
The real-life Walter White used skills from his business studies degree to buy and sell illegal substances while trading in Bitcoin cryptocurrency on the Dark Web.
He masqueraded as a legitimate tea trader using a company called Labrador Tea Company to import MDMA, LSD, heroin, cocaine, ketamine and cannabis.
A court heard how he amassed a turnover of £1.8 million as a result of the lucrative operation he ran from his property in Market Harborough, Leicstershire.
He used the cash to purchase property and cars while his partner Lia Johnson, 28, laundered the cash before being rumbled by police in December 2017.
Officers raided the couple’s home and recovered a £7,000 haul of drugs, which had been imported from Canada and Spain as well as other drugs paraphernalia.
Digital media investigators found Johnson actively trading with Bitcoins and orders for drugs on his laptop.
The investigation revealed Johnson was trafficking drugs from a number of countries and using three properties he was renting as the delivery addresses.
He used his loft at home to weigh and package the drugs and post them out to customers – all under the guise of the Labrador Tea Company.
Bitcoin wallets containing 22.7 coins were also recovered and when converted into sterling they were valued at more than £300,000.
Johnson pleaded guilty to supplying class A and B drugs, possession with intent to supply, improper importation of drugs to the UK and five counts of money laundering.
He was jailed for eight years at Leicester Crown Court.
His partner pleaded guilty to four counts of money laundering but avoided jail after being given a two year prison sentence, suspended for two years.
The court was told how “working class Yorkshire lad” Johnson obtain a first class Honours degree from university before struggling to find a job.
He then turned to drug dealing after quitting a job at KFC as he wanted to “provide for his wife and child” before “greed eventually took over.”
After the case, Paul Wenlock from Leicestershire Police’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “Johnson used the internet to commit his crimes.
“He ran an organised business enterprise and traded in cryptocurrency in an attempt to hide his criminal activity from the authorities.
“He used his criminal gains to purchase a property and cars.
“This is one of a handful of cases nationally where cryptocurrency has been used in this way.
“This result is the testament to the knowledge and experience of the digital media investigators who quickly identified what Johnson was doing online and were able to secure the bitcoins.
“This was a lengthy and complex investigation carried out by financial investigators within the unit.
“The evidence against Johnson was overwhelming and he had no choice but to admit to his crimes.
“He may not have traded drugs on the street but he knew exactly what he was doing and it’s only right that he now faces a lengthy custodial sentence.”