British sheep farmer stands trial for baby food bitcoin extortion scheme

Illustration for article titled British sheep farmer stands trial for baby food bitcoin extortion scheme
Photo: ANDREW YATES (Getty Images)

An English sheep farmer has been accused of trying to extort £1.4 million in bitcoin from the U.K.’s largest supermarket chain by allegedly contaminating its baby food. Oh, and he claims to be in a gang made up of disgruntled dairy farmers, so the good people of Lincolnshire should probably start watching their backs.

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The trial of Nigel Wright began this week at the Old Bailey Central Criminal Court in London; prosecutors allege that the 45-year old man, under the alias “Guy Brush,” bombarded Tesco with threatening letters and emails between May 2018 and February 2020. The Yorkshire Post reports that Wright claims to be the leader of a gang called “Guy Brush and the Dairy Pirates,” a consortium of farmers who believed that Tesco had been underpaying them. In a series of messages, Wright had told the supermarket chain that the gang had distributed jars of baby food contaminated with salmonella and various chemicals throughout multiple Tesco stores. If the company wanted to find out where the jars were, it would need to pony up a 100 bitcoin ransom, about £900,000.

Tesco refused to pay up. Then, in November and December 2019, two customers—one in Rochdale, England, the other in Lockerbie, Scotland—discovered slivers of metal in jars of baby food as they were feeding them to their children. Wright then demanded 200 bitcoin—the equivalent of £1.4 million. That’s when his 20-month reign of terror came to a screeching halt.

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After seizing his laptop, investigators discovered a draft of the messages sent to Tesco and photos of canned goods, jars of baby food, and slivers of metal. Further investigation found no other evidence of contaminated goods. Wright denies all wrongdoing against Tesco, and has pled not guilty to charges of goods contamination and blackmail.

The blackmail charges against Wright extend past his plot against Tesco; he’s also accused of threatening to kill a man a road rage incident unless he was paid £150,000 worth of bitcoin. Wright tracked down the motorist and sent him a photograph of his wife with a a target and bullet holes superimposed on it. Wright admits he was involvement in this particular blackmail plot, but says he was forced to participate by a mysterious a group of travelers who told him they would rape his wife and murder his children unless they were paid £1 million. Prosecutors say that Wright’s story regarding the travelers has continually changed as more and more evidence directly linking him to the crimes have been uncovered.

The prosecutor said: “You the jury will have to determine whether his story of being threatened by travellers is true.”

He added: “The prosecution suggest that it changes whenever he is confronted with more evidence which he has to explain, and is completely untrue.”

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Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, author of three books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Questions about recipes/need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

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DISCUSSION

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Burners Baby Burners: Discussion Inferno

Of course a 45 year old trying to blackmail a supermarket chain for bitcoin would be using the name of the protagonist from the Monkey Island video game series.