Federal authorities say they’ve busted a secret online market that sold illegal drugs to some 3,000 customers in 34 countries.
Eight people have been arrested in connection with the operation, known as the "Farmer’s Market," according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.
The arrests and charges, unsealed on Monday, are the result of a two-year investigation, dubbed "Operation Adam Bomb," into the online sale and distribution of narcotics, according to the indictment. The market allegedly acted as a sort of go-between for suppliers of illegal drugs and customers.
The website operators allegedly received a commission for online sales based on the value of the order for such drugs as LSD, MDMA (ecstasy), fentanyl, mescaline, ketamine, DMT, and high-grade marijuana.
A key feature was that suppliers and customers could supposedly stay anonymous.
The investigation was led by federal drug agents in Los Angeles with assistance from drug agents in Europe and Latin America.
"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 on-line technology," DEA agent Briane Grey said in a statement.
Two of the suspects arrested were overseas. They included the alleged leader of the enterprise, Mac Willems, 42, who was arrested at his home in Lelystad, Netherlands, and Michael Evron, 42, a U.S. citizen living in Argentina who was arrested in Bogota, Colombia.
Six were taken into custody in the United States. They were identified as Jonathan Colbeck, 51, of Urbana, Iowa; Brian Colbeck, 47, of Coldwater, Mich.; Ryan Rawls, 31, of Alpharetta, Ga.; Jonathan Dugan, 27, of North Babylon, N.Y.; George Matzek, 20, of Secaucus, N.J.; and Charles Bigras, 37, of Melbourne, Fla.
The 12-count indictment charges all eight 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.
According to the indictment, the drug website employed a special network of encrypted connections – called the Tor network -- that masks websites and email connections so they couldn’t be detected.
According to the Tor Project website, the free software and open network helps users defend against surveillance and traffic analysis that "threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships."
According to The Associated Press, Tor has its origins in a U.S. Naval Research Laboratory project aimed at protecting government communications.
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