US authorities bust online international narcotics ring
By Dialogo April 17, 2012
LOS ANGELES — U.S. authorities announced on April 16 the bust of an online narcotics “Farmers Market” where people around the globe could buy LSD, ecstasy and other illicit substances.
Fifteen people were arrested as the result of a two-year-long investigation code-named “Project Adam Bomb” and involved law enforcement in Scotland, Colombia, the Netherlands and the United States, the U.S. Justice Department said.
“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 online technology,” said Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Acting Special Agent in Charge Briane Grey.
Eight men named in a criminal indictment were suspected of operating a “Farmers Market” online storefront that allowed suppliers to advertise narcotics and consummate deals with shoppers.
Six of the alleged “conspirators” lived in the United States, with a seventh being a U.S. citizen living in Argentina.
Marc Willems, 42, was described as the “lead defendant” in the case and was taken into custody April 16 at his home in the Netherlands, officials said.
The eight men face drug trafficking and money laundering charges “stemming from their creation and operation of a secret online narcotics marketplace” that brokered sales of the substances in 24 countries, according to the Justice Department.
In addition to the eight men named in the indictment, authorities arrested seven others — two more in the Netherlands, and five in the United States — involved in the case.
Officials said the virtual marketplace provided order forms, online forums, customer service, delivery guarantees, even mainstream payment tools including PayPal and Western Union.
Market operators purportedly charged commissions based on values of orders.
Approximately US$1.04 million worth of drug sales were processed at the online market between January 2007 and October of 2009, according to investigators.
The online drug market was said to have thousands of registered users, and investigators identified customers in every U.S. state as well as in 34 other countries.
The drug menu at the market reportedly included mescaline, LDS, ecstasy, and high-end marijuana.
[AFP, 17/04/2012; Justice.gov, 16/04/2012]