We've seen plenty of high profile and often technical busts on dark web sites targeting dealers, users, and administrators. In a recent case, German cops tracked down a marketplace user who placed orders for just a few grams of cannabis at a time, three years ago.
A German user of the original Silk Road and another dark web market was recently fined over €3,000 for ordering cannabis 17 times, according to independent researcher Gwern Branwen. Branwen said in a Reddit post that the buyer contacted him recently. He also uploaded an apparent March 2016 letter from German law authorities detailing the transactions. (Names and other information have been redacted from the letter, so Motherboard was unable to contact its supposed recipient).
According to the letter, the customer's 17 purchases varied from 1.5 and 7.4 gram quantities of cannabis, between January and October 2013.
Plenty of dark web customers have been punished before. Law enforcement often track down buyers of poisons or weapons and have also gone after buyers of "harder" drugs, such as MDMA or methamphetamine.There have been a handful of marijuana cases.
What makes this case stand out further is that police were still keen on tracking the buyer down years later; Silk Road was shut down way back in September 2013.
It appears the customer—who told Branwen he always encrypted his address when providing it to vendors—was identified after German authorities busted a cannabis seller who had kept records of all of their customers. From there, Branwen thinks the police may have gone through records of the Silk Road server to find more of the customer's purchases, since he consistently used one username.
It's not clear how the authorities would have discovered one of the customer's orders from Outlaw Market, which is still running. The letter adds that "communications" from Silk Road were used.
"Can a buyer, in the absence of any intercepted packages or possession of illegal drugs, be prosecuted or otherwise get into trouble?" Branwen writes on Reddit. "At least in Germany, the answer seems to be yes."
This case goes to show that even people who briefly used dark web markets may have to worry about law enforcement eventually tracking them down.