DEA drug smuggling sting nabs online drug dealers
A multi-agency, multi-country law enforcement effort successfully broke-up and shut down the “Farmer’s Market” website. The international online drug trafficking organization sold a wide variety of illicit narcotics to U.S. and international customers.
Authorities say the “secret” online website moved illegal drugs using the postal service to more than 3,000 customers in 50 states and 24 countries. This week authorities arrested eight people in connection with the criminal drug business; all face federal drug trafficking and money laundering charges.
The ringleader, Marc Willems, a resident of the Netherlands, was arrested in his home and charged as the lead defendant. Colombian authorities tracked down and arrested U.S. citizen Michael Evron who was in the process of fleeing the country before Bogota Police captured him. The remaining suspects, Jonathan Colbeck, Brian Colbeck, Ryan Rawls, Jonathan Dugan, George Matzek and Charles Bigras were apprehended at their respective homes in Iowa, Michigan, Georgia, New York, New Jersey and Florida.
The Los Angeles Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) field office led the two-year, multi-agency “Operation Adam Bomb” investigation.
“The drug trafficking organization targeted in ‘Operation Adam Bomb’ was distributing dangerous and addictive drugs to every corner of the world, and trying to hide their activities through the use of advanced anonymizing on-line technology,” said Briane M. Grey, DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge. “Today’s action should send a clear message to organizations that are using technology to conduct criminal activity that the DEA and our law enforcement partners will track them down and bring them to justice.”
Smuggling drugs in a global market require law enforcement agencies partner with foreign organizations to keep one step ahead of criminals and shut down their unlawful entities.
“Illegal narcotics trafficking now reaches every corner of our world, including our home computers,” said U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California André Birotte Jr., whose office is handling the prosecution of the case. “But the reach of the law is just as long, and the Department of Justice will work with its partners, both nationally and internationally, to bring narcotics traffickers to justice, wherever they may hide. Working together, we want to make the Internet a safe and secure marketplace by rooting out and prosecuting those persons who seek to illegally pervert and exploit that market.”
All the defendants were charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances worldwide. The online marketplace allowed independent contractors to anonymously advertise and sell illegal drugs on public airwaves. The unsealed indictment revealed that online business owners used online forums to sell their controlled substances. The “Farmer’s Market” also offered a customer service program as well as various payment options for their illegal drug-seeking consumers. The indictment alleges that customers and operators screened suppliers to guarantee delivery of drugs and even collected a commission from the transactions.
This marketplace offered a wide variety of controlled substances including, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), MDMA (ecstasy), fentanyl, mescaline, ketamine, DMT and high-end marijuana. The DEA said the online drug dealers handled approximately 5,256 online orders and earned $1,041,244 during January 2007 and October 2009.
The multi-agency task force said the drug dealers used a TOR program with encrypted connections that can be downloaded on most home computers. “TOR allows websites and electronic mail communications to mask IP address information by spreading communications over a series of computers, or relays, located throughout the world,” the DEA explained. “The online marketplaces have accepted Western Union, Pecunix, PayPal, I-Golder, and cash as payment for illegal drug sales.”
Federal authorities said, “All the defendants were charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, which carries a maximum sentence of imprisonment for life, and money laundering conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.”
The lead defendants Willems, Evron, Jonathan Colbeck, Brian Colbeck, and Rawls are also charged with the distribution of LSD, which carries a maximum sentence of imprisonment for life. Finally, “defendants Willems and Evron are charged with participating in a continuing criminal enterprise, which carries a maximum sentence of imprisonment for life and a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence.”
Authorities arrested seven other individuals for their connection to the illegal drug website.
The DEA received substantial assistance from the Netherlands Regional Police Force Flevoland, the International Legal Assistance Center North East Netherlands prosecutors, U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, the DEA’s country office in Hague, and the U.S. Postal Service.
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