Ex England footballer jailed over plot to smuggle 24kgs of cannabis

8 September 2022, 07:43 | Updated: 8 September 2022, 09:25

Former England footballer Faye Dunn has been sentenced to three years and nine months behind bars for her role in a plot to supply 24kgs of cannabis.
Former England footballer Faye Dunn has been sentenced to three years and nine months behind bars for her role in a plot to supply 24kgs of cannabis. Picture: Alamy/Merseyside Police

By Lauren Lewis

A former England footballer has been sentenced to three years and nine months behind bars for her role in a plot to supply 24kgs of cannabis.

Faye Dunn, otherwise known as Faye Canty, 38, of Walpole Avenue in Whiston, was arrested alongside her father by Merseyside Police at Manchester Airport in June.

The mother-of-two was detained as part of the police's Operation Venetic, an international operation targeting criminals who used a mobile encryption service, commonly referred to as Encrochat, in an attempt to evade detection.

Dunn, who was a rising star in England's U19 team 20 years ago, used the Encrochat handle ‘Stiffninja’ in a conspiracy to supply 24kgs of cannabis.

It was also evidenced in court that she was involved in laundering £650,000.

Dunn and her father appeared together in Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday.

Father, Michael Dunn, 68 years, of Derby Street in Prescot, received two-year suspended sentence for his part in drug dealing.

He was arrested and charged in July for conspiracy to supply a controlled Class B drug, cannabis, and money laundering.

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Dunn set up Onside Sports Academy, which supported footballers released from professional clubs, after hanging up her boots but was left stuck for cash after the business faltered after Covid forced the UK into a lockdown in 2020.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that this was the catalyst for Dunn becoming involved in crime.

However, police said evidence pointed to Dunn's involvement in the underworld as early as December 2019.

Dunn, operating under the username StiffNinja, sent a user called 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 - on 2 April, police said.

The balance sheet also showed spending of £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.

During mitigation, defending Nick Buckley requested a suspended sentence citing her involvement in charity Onside.

He said: "What the court is being asked to extend is a significant element of mercy to Ms Dunn because of the responsibility she has in caring for others. It is her responsibility that those others are being placed in this predicament.

"She acknowledges there is serious offending that underpins it. There is a balance to be struck between the individual and the system here - what is contended is the balance weighs very heavily in Ms Dunn's favour.

"She is intelligent, resourceful, kind, loving, generous and sadly flawed. She has done wrong on a large scale over a prolonged period of time.

"Her children are being supported, encouraged and their needs are being met fully by a supportive mother. One knows the damage that separation will cause those children and the difficulties they will suffer as a result."

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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.

"Long-term abuse can risk a user's mental health with a range of psychological problems, including paranoia and psychosis. Users can be consumed by the use of cannabis, which develops into dependence.

"Those dependent on cannabis turn themselves to crime in order to find their dependency. Many young and vulnerable people are exploited in the cannabis trade.

"The human toll is dramatic. Threats of and the use of violence are endemic in the cannabis trade.

"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.

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Judge Potter added: "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."

Detective Constable Michael Steventon said: "Faye Dunn was essentially an accountant and played an integral part in laundering hundreds of thousands of pounds of money.

"Her Encrochat handle also showed that she conspired to supply 24kgs of cannabis.

"I hope this sentencing sends a strong message to perpetrators that crime doesn’t pay – we are taking action and bringing drug dealers to justice. We will continue to be relentless in our pursuit of offenders.  

"I would ask anyone who has any information about who is supplying or selling drugs in their area to contact us so we can take action."

Anyone with information is asked to DM @MerPolCC or @CrimestoppersUK anonymously on 0800 555 111.