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WhatsApp photo of fingerprints helps catch drug dealers in UK

The convictions are believed to be the first in Wales based on fingerprints taken from a cell phone photo.

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Police in Wales used a WhatsApp photo of fingerprints to track down a drug dealer.

Dmitry Feoktistov\TASS via Getty Images

Fingerprints taken from a photo sent over WhatsApp have led to the arrest and conviction of several members of a drug ring in the UK.

The arrests occurred after police in Wales discovered a photo on the messaging app on another person's phone that showed a man's hand palm up, holding ecstasy tablets, according to the BBC. While the parts of the two fingers visible in the photo didn't match with fingerprints on record, they led to the discovery of other information that linked the photo to one of the drug dealers.

Once the suspect was arrested, officers matched the fingerprints in the image to the suspects, the BBC said. The information eventually led to 11 convictions earlier this month -- convictions believed to be the first in Wales based on fingerprints taken from a cell phone photo, the BBC reported.

Dave Thomas, an officer involved in the investigation, said the photo highlights the importance of reviewing data stored on cell phones when investigating a crime.

"While the scale and quality of the photograph proved a challenge, the small bits were enough to prove he was the dealer," Thomas told the BBC. "It has now opened the floodgates and when there is part of a hand on a photograph, officers are sending them in."

WhatsApp declined to comment.

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