Worldwide Online Drug "Farmer's Market" Busted, 15 Arrests Made

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A two-year investigation into an online enterprise that sold over $1 million worth of drugs through the internet ended today with 15 arrests spanning three countries. Elsewhere, ravers and Phish-heads wept for the lost party favors.

The subtly dubbed “Farmer’s Market” dished out a pu-pu platter of drugs, including (and certainly not limited to) LSD, Ecstasy, Special K (Ketamine), ‘Shrooms, hashish, cannabis, and cocaine. All of the following aside from Ketamine were also confiscated during the raids.

The now unsealed indictment from Los Angeles federal court indicates that the team of entrepreneurs, led by the Dutch Marc Willems, utilized the popular and purportedly “anonymous” Tor network to complete transactions with customers. The group, active since 2006, also frequently used hush mail (a very popular “anonymous” form of email) to communicate with one another.

In theory, using secretive, encrypted identification and pseudonyms kept their true identities completely secret and the feds off their trails. This plan worked for six years.

And then they learned that there are truly no safe secrets on the internet.

An indictment unsealed in federal court in Los Angeles claims eight men ran “The Farmer’s Market,” which allowed suppliers of drugs – including LSD, Ecstasy and ketamine – to anonymously sell their wares online. They hooked up with buyers in 34 countries and accepted various forms of payment, including cash, Western Union and PayPal transactions, the indictment claims.

From 2007 to 2009 alone, the marketplace processed more than 5,000 orders for drugs valued at more than $1 million, federal officials contended. It began operations as far back as March 2006, authorities said.

The market “provided a controlled substances storefront, order forms, online forums, customer service, and payment methods for the different sources of supply” and charged the suppliers a commission based upon the value of the order, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.

“For customers, the operators screened all sources of supply and guaranteed delivery of the illegal drugs,” the statement said.

[...]

The 12-count indictment charges all eight men with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and money laundering conspiracy. Some of the men also are charged with distributing LSD and taking part in a continuing criminal enterprise.

All could face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of conspiracy. [AP]

Anyone that thinks the government doesn’t have ways to find out what lies beneath your array of IPs and encrypted signals need not look further than this case. Yes, it took them a long time (two years), to sift through the tangled web of identities, but in the end, they found enough indisputable evidence to indict 15 people.

That said, the online drug business isn’t going anywhere. These individuals are a mere sector of the industry, and there are certainly other enterprises like theirs around. I’m pretty sure the controversial (and even less anonymous) Silk Road, for instance, still exists.

High quality hallucinogenics are extremely difficult to find, and the demand for them constantly outweighs the supply. So if the only way for someone in Albania to get a tab of acid is to buy it online from a Los Angeles-based dealer, well, desperate times cost for desperate measures.

If you Google “Buy drugs online”–which probably isn’t the wisest move to make–you’ll find a ton of results. Levitra, xanax, cialis, aderall. You name a prescription drug, and there’s probably a way to buy it online (or at least a site that says you can buy it there). But the inherent risk that comes worth this activity is a very steep one.

In summation, yes, buying drugs online is illegal (and ill-advised). Selling them online is (clearly) exponentially more illegal (and more ill-advised). But it’s a completely lucrative (and really real) business that will not cease thriving until drugs are legalized or at least decriminalized.  And given Obama’s recent remarks, that won’t be happening anytime soon.

Have you ever bought drugs off the internet? If so, what was the outcome?

  

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