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Farmer found guilty of contaminating baby food as part of a £1.5million bitcoin extortion scheme

|News, Fraud and economic crime

A farmer who contaminated baby food jars with shards of metal as part of a £1.5m blackmail plot has been found guilty today (20 August 2020).

Nigel Wright, 45, began threatening Tesco in spring 2018, writing to his local store in Lincolnshire and warning them that unless they paid him £750,000 worth of bitcoin - an online currency that would allow him to remain anonymous - he would contaminate the food on their shelves.

Under the pseudonym ‘Guy Brush’ Wright demanded larger sums of money, telling Tesco that he would also contaminate jars with salmonella, white powder and knives.

However, on 13 December 2019 it was clear that Wright’s activity had escalated, as a mum in Lockerbie discovered small knife fragments in the baby food she was about to give her child.

When a nation-wide recall was issued, a family in Rochdale also contacted the company saying they had thrown out two tins of baby food which had contained metal.

Today at the Old Bailey, Wright was found guilty of blackmail and contaminating goods.

Charles White of the CPS, said: “Wright demanded an extraordinary amount of money, and was so determined to secure it that he was prepared to contaminate children’s food on supermarket shelves.

“It is a testament to the vigilance of parents and the swift action taken by the supermarket, police and other agencies that the public were kept safe.”

Building the case

When arrested, Wright told police that he had been threatened to carry out the extortion by some people who had said they would harm his family if he did not.

The prosecution was able to prove that there was no evidence to support Wright’s lies. Instead, Hertfordshire police found a wealth of material which pointed to the fact Wright had acted alone.

A laptop was discovered in his Toyota, which had draft copies of the extortion letters on them, as well as access to the email account that ‘Guy Brush’ had used to communicate with Tesco.

Wright carried out a number of searches online including ‘tesco tampered’ and ‘boy autopsy’ and had read an article about the recall of the baby food products.

The court was shown photos Wright had taken of the contaminated jars, positioned next to small knives and with small, green markings on the base of the jar.

As the blackmail continued, an officer pretended to be a Tesco employee and provided Wright with an access code for the £100,000 worth of bitcoin.

The case against Wright was clear as when he was traced and arrested, Wright was found with a copy of this access code written on a piece of paper.

Mr White continued: “He created an elaborate lie saying that he himself was blackmailed, but it is clear Wright was the only person responsible for potentially putting the public’s safety at risk.

“From his laptop, to the images he had taken of the contaminated food and the bitcoin access code, there was a wealth of evidence in this case which proved that Wright was guilty.”

Notes to editors

  • Charles White is a Senior Crown Prosecutor in CPS Thames and Chiltern
  • Nigel Wright (28/01/1975) was today (20 August 2020) found guilty of three counts of blackmail and two counts of contaminating goods. He will be sentenced on 28 September.

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