Darknet Drug Dealers End Up In Prison After DNA Found On Mail
The darknet aka the dark web is a highly anonymous part of the internet that usually runs via Tor, where internet traffic is encrypted and bounced between more than 7,000 relays, obfuscating a user’s IP address and therefore obfuscating their identity, and making it nearly impossible for anyone else to see the user’s internet traffic. There are other examples of software that can be used for the darknet, such as Freenet, I2P, Riffle, and even small peer to peer networks, but Tor is the most commonly used.
The high degree of anonymity offered by the darknet has resulted in a plethora of darknet markets where illicit things like drugs, hacking services, weapons, stolen goods, credit card numbers, and identity information are sold. However, using the darknet is not a completely bulletproof way to evade law enforcement when conducting illegal activity, as three men in the United Kingdom learned the hard way.
Apparently these three men were selling Cocaine, Ketamine, Cannabis, and MDMA, which are some of the most popular illegal drugs. Their operation was worldwide, and made even more anonymous by using Bitcoin for payments. Whereas fiat payment methods like credit cards, PayPal, bank transfers, and Western Unions require identification information, Bitcoin is pseudo-anonymous and requires no identity information aside from a unique Bitcoin address, which is a long string of letters and numbers. Although Bitcoin transactions can theoretically be tracked via blockchain forensics, using Tor in combination with Bitcoin, as well as Bitcoin mixers and VPNs, makes it very difficult to track down the identity of a Bitcoin user.
However, the Achille’s heel for these three men was the mail. While Tor obfuscated their IP address and their internet data usage, and Bitcoin made their financial activity anonymous, the mail is quite difficult to encrypt since it is run by the government.
When a mail package crosses an international border it goes through customs, where it is X-rayed and possibly opened up if anything suspicious is noted. Perhaps these three men successfully sent many packages before, but one ill-fated package was discovered to have drugs in it. DNA was then found on the mail, and this DNA was linked back to one of the three men.
This brings up an interesting fact regarding national DNA databases. Many countries, including the United Kingdom, collect the DNA of people who are arrested. This is in-fact a common practice now, so if someone is arrested, then their DNA is usually taken and stored in the database. Apparently one of these three drug dealers had already been arrested at some point in the past, his DNA was stored, and then they found his DNA on some illicit mail in the United States.
The FBI contacted police in the United Kingdom after finding the DNA evidence, who then raided the drug dealers and found 1.3 kilograms of Cannabis resin and 580 grams of MDMA, enough drugs to fuel an entire college campus for probably one day.
Ultimately the three men earned more than 1 million Great Britain Pounds (GBP), or more than $1.2 million, from their darknet drug dealing operation. However, it seems to have not been worth it, since one man is in prison for 12 years, another is in prison for 9 years and 9 months, and the ‘luckiest one’ is in prison for 14 months, which is still an extremely difficult sentence.
Thus, this is a tale of how a global darknet drug dealing ring can be taken down by a fragment of DNA on a package of mail, despite using all the best anonymity technology like Tor and cryptocurrency. It would require wearing space suits when procuring the drugs, obtaining the packaging materials, and sending the package, as well as having a NASA-grade clean room, to prevent such an eventuality. It is probably a better idea to just not sell drugs.