We may live in an age where you can buy anything on the Internet, from 60 foot tall iPod towers, to underwear and flamethrowers handcrafted in Russia. Heck, you can even buy drugs, but heed this warning: the Feds will rain all hell on you if you are caught behind one of these operations, as seen in this 66-page indictment released on Monday. The Feds tracked down the men behind “Farmer’s Market”, a multi-million dollar web front for delivering LSD, Afghani hashish, tar heroin, and other controlled substances to the doorsteps of eager users from around the world, including all fifty states, and 35 countries.
It’s unfortunate for all those folks who used the service to comfortably order their fixes with a simple click of a button, sure. But at the end of the day who doesn’t love a good drug bust?
This particular series of arrests comes about a year after Gawker blew the lid on a similar drug trafficking site known as “The Silk Road”, which relied on sophisticated digital roundabouts such as encryption software supplied by the TOR Project (a service protecting against IP tracing), and the fabrication of a fake crypto-currency known bitcoins.
Farmer’s Market didn’t quite stoop to relying on on fake currency to carry out their operations, but it did rely heavily on online forums, web based ordering, and at least four methods of payment including PayPal, according to the indictment. The federal investigation of the digital front began in 2006 (under the confusing moniker “Operation Adam Bomb”) and authorities estimate that from January 2007 to October 2009, it processed some 5,256 orders valued at $1.04 million.
According to a press release from federal prosecutors, lead defendant Marc Willem was arrested on Monday in Lelystad, Netherlands. On Sunday, authorities arrested Michael Evron, a US citizen who lives in Argentina as he was attempting to leave Colombia. The remaining defendants—Jonathan Colbeck, Brian Colbeck, Ryan Rawls, Jonathan Dugan, George Matzek, and Charles Bigras—were arrested at their respective homes in Iowa, Michigan, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, and Florida.
The 12-count indictment charges that each of the defendants was a member of a conspiracy to distribute a variety of controlled substances world-wide through the use of on-line marketplaces that allowed independent sources of supply to anonymously advertise illegal drugs for sale to the public.
Still, while the Feds may be cracking down on online trafficking, it’s somewhat amusing to read their commentary which largely reads as a still coming to terms with the fact that the Internet is a large where illegal activity happens. United States Attorney André Birotte Jr., whose office is handling the prosecution of the case, said that "Illegal narcotics trafficking now reaches every corner of our world, including our home computers. 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."
After all, the Feds may have shut down the Amazon of online drug trafficking, but they had to spend three pages of their indictment building a case around the defining the Internet and e-mail (electronic-mail FYI) before they could do it.