Illustration: Mike Hughes
Marcus, 28, is currently in prison, having been sentenced to 14 years for running a heroin and cocaine supply operation from his home in the north of England. After six years inside, he’s tipped for early release later this year. But despite his desire to leave the industry, he’s still selling Class A drugs from his prison cell.VICE: Hey, you around?
VICE's column asking drug dealers not just what they're selling, but how they're doing.
Marcus: Yeah. For sure.How are you feeling?
What? I thought this was an interview, not a therapy session. I’m a serious guy. Listen, I’m feeling just fine, thanks. The wife and kids are good too.
Okay. So, you run a drug sales business despite being locked up. What do you sell and where?
My lads currently sell heroin and crack cocaine across the UK, from the Scottish Highlands down to Devon, while I keep an eye on things from jail. Sometimes I’ll set up deals involving coke, MDMA, weed or whatever, but smack and crack have always been my bread-and-butter.How do you manage to do business from prison?
I use a SKY ECC phone and a Zanco Tiny. The SKY phone’s great for secure communication, but you need to be chatting to another SKY phone user for it to be beneficial, and most mid-tier dealers don’t want to shell out £600 a quarter [for the contract]. It’s hard to hide an iPhone-sized object in a small space too, so you need a trusted person to look after it and take the risk.The Zanco’s the perfect size, as you can easily plug it [put it in your anus] when the screws unexpectedly spin [search] your cell. But if someone you’ve phoned gets busted, it’s dead-easy for the police to work out your location using cell site analysis.Who are your customers?
They’re mid-supply chain dealers, and the product probably goes through two or three more people minimum before it reaches the end user. None of them are rich though. My direct customers are the kind of people you’d expect to run a respectable local business. You’d probably assume they worked in recruitment, construction or something run-of-the-mill like that.
How do you source gear from jail?
Well, I’ve worked with the same family for around ten years now, and have no real need to change supplier. They’re highly-organised and bring a regular supply into the UK, without drama. I can get heroin, coke, mandy and weed from them – but they won’t wash the coke [into crack], so I rely on someone else to do that.I also work for a second group, but that’s not through choice. There was an incident, long before I got banged-up – just over 36kg of high-purity heroin got nicked from me, and I was unable to pay for it. I can’t really say much more than that, but it’s left me with a debt of over £800,000. And it’s proving hard to clear.How’s business going right now?
Not the best, if I’m being truthful. That EncroChat bust was massively over-hyped, but it probably gave the police loads of useful intelligence. Everyone’s being overcautious, as they’re worried their associates mentioned their name on the phone. My pal’s looking at an extra 12 years on his sentence for dealing from jail. He’s convinced it’s because his bosses were speaking too freely over Encro.How do your family feel about you dealing from jail?
I try not to mention it to my wife, as she gets livid – and she’s stayed loyal through everything. My mum’s dead now. She overdosed during my late teens. And I don’t really know what my dad gets up to these days. I’ve got twin girls, and they have no idea about my business – they’re still at primary school.
How do you make sure everyone’s doing their job while you’re in jail? Surely that’s tricky?
Prison can be the best place to do business. If I’ve got someone locked on the same wing as me, I can get drugs delivered to their brother or cousin outside. I’m guaranteed payment, because they’re not going nowhere. My long-term customers and workers know I’ve got the full support of my supplier. And they’re fucking ruthless, man. They won’t hesitate to put a bullet through you if you rob them.I’ve had workers take advantage of the situation [being inside prison] from time-to-time. It’s hard to keep them loyal when you’re inside for so long – there’s always a risk they’ll work for a competitor or cut you out of a deal. But like I always say, I won’t be in prison forever.Are you earning much at the moment?
I obviously have to take a substantial pay cut, as I’m in prison – and need to pay different people to look after different aspects of the business. I’ve had to split up certain management roles so one person can’t try to muscle me out. There’s different people to look after money and products, then another one calling the shots. All these people need paying, and these are jobs I’d otherwise be doing myself.
I’m not going to give you specifics, but I can make anywhere between £10,000 and £30,000 a month [while in jail]. Don’t get it twisted – every now and then shit goes wrong, and I might not earn any money that month. Most dealers make more profits in prison than outside – what the fuck have they got to spent cash on while locked up? A couple tubs of protein a month, and someone to chuck another mobile phone over the wall from time to time.It’s ironic that you’re in jail and earning more than most of the prison officers. What can prisons do to stop drug dealing inside their walls?
I’m a highly-motivated person. I was taken from my natural habitat and locked in a room with nothing to do. I needed something to stop the boredom and fulfil my need for achievement.The staff treat us like kids and don’t give us anything constructive to do. They expect us to play pool and throw darts. They can’t comprehend that we have a reasonable amount of intelligence that could be put to good use – so we take advantage of their ignorance.For a bunch of stupid criminals, we’re pretty good at getting shit done – fixing phones with tweezers and somehow still earning tens of thousands of pounds.You sell an addictive product that kills people. Is that not unethical?
Not all of us are blessed with the same advantages in life. I was born into poverty, and nobody told me I could go off to university to study. In fact, I’m in prison now, but I’ve still got massive bills to pay – my wife gets death threats every time I miss a payment, so quitting this game ain’t an option.Most of my customers have addictions, and I know someone else will supply that heroin if I don’t. Nobody is forced into buying gear – it’s a free choice. And we all have problems in life.I feel guilty about not being there for the kids, but I don’t feel guilty about the people who’ve died from the heroin I’ve sold. And I draw the line at giving someone a habit – I’d never push heroin or crack onto anyone. I’ve even helped mates get off the gear and stay clean.Do you ever plan to stop?
Well, nobody ever wants to be a heroin dealer – you just want a comfortable life and a way to earn £500 or £1,000 a week. So you end up dealing purely as a means to an end. But then you do well and increase your target, and it’s not long before you have workers dependent on their wages, and you feel obliged to ensure they can pay their bills too.Before long, it gets big and there are huge amounts of money involved. And you quite literally don’t know what to do with the cash – but you can’t walk away. You end up disconnected from the product completely, and all you see is your employees around you. It’s impossible to find a way out. And then you lose all your money anyway – and you actually have no choice but to start again because you owe some Dutch firm almost a million pounds.