Mainly notorious for the high influx of drug dealers
using its markets, the dark web is now heavily monitored by police forces
trying to identify dealers and their customers.
Given the high secrecy and anonymity of such markets, finding people is a challenge, though. Not only does it take years for an investigation to complete, it may also lead the authorities nowhere.
Not in this case, though! A prolific gang of British dealers has been identified over a three year investigation, leading to its members getting jailed.
The gang and its connections
James Buckett got the biggest sentence and will need to spend nine years in prison. He was the head of the gang, establishing the dark web shop in 2019. The shop had a wide range of products, from LSD and cocaine to cannabis and pharmaceutical pills. Operations were international.
Drugs were sourced from the dark web.
Joseph Strachan got in contact with Buckett after purchasing
drugs himself. He pleaded not guilty and wasn’t charged for running the shop.
Instead, he was found guilty of conspiracy to supply drugs. His two year
sentence is suspended.
Alfie Petherick helped Buckett run the dark web shop
by dividing parcels into small doses. He also helped with the distribution to
Germany, France, the USA, and Canada. He pleaded guilty in front of all the
evidence gathered by the police and received a 4.5-year sentence in prison.
Finally, Craig Norton was not affiliated with Buckett,
but he worked as a runner for hire. He used to deliver drugs to different
locations for more dealers in the area, and Buckett was just one of them.
Connections with other drug dealers in the area
haven't been revealed, though. He was judged based on this case in particular.
Given the accusations and evidence against him, he had no other choice but to
plead guilty. He received 30 months in prison.
The first sign for the police
Buckett hoped the dark web anonymity would help him run his business with no interference from the police. But since the service is not exclusively online, the police intercepted a parcel sent to him from the Netherlands.
The parcel was checked by the Heathrow Border Force. Authorities found just over 60 grams of MDMA in a well sealed and padded package.
It’s not illegal to receive illegal stuff, as anyone can send it. But at the same time, no one would really send expensive drugs randomly, so the police decided to keep an eye on him.
The rookie mistake
During the same year, Buckett changed homes and found a new place in South Croydon. Unfortunately for him, he forgot about rent for one month. The landlord forced entry into the property to see what’s going on.
On a table, he found plenty of drugs, as well as tools needed to prepare drugs, not to mention handwritten notes explaining the drug shop plan in the smallest details. Alerted by the discovery, he called the police.
Buckett was later arrested while hanging on a boat in Brighton Marina. It looks like his boat was the base location for his drug empire. He was originally suspected for importing drugs, but the accusations evolved during the investigation.
The police statement
The whole gang was arrested within the next few weeks, each member facing different accusations based on their roles in the business. It took about three years for the investigation to be over, having everyone sentenced according to the gravity of the crimes.
The Surrey Police Serious Organized Crime Unit made a statement, claiming that such sentences are part of a constant effort to tackle and take down organized crime networks in Surrey and the surroundings.
The investigation was extensive, and despite the initial connections to Buckett, the authorities began an in-depth analysis only after arresting him. The investigation including phone data, computer data, and numerous links regarding the gang.
All four members of the gang belonged to a sophisticated and advanced network. While all of them are based in the UK, their operations stretched all over the world.
Unfortunately for them, a few rookie mistakes led the police to the leader of the gang. From that point on, it was only a matter of time until everyone was captured.
Once the authorities gained access to the main suspect, all the phone and computer data revealed plenty of details that wouldn’t have been found otherwise.
This case proves once again that while the dark web does offer a high sense of anonymity, certain operations have real life extensions, and that's when people are more likely to make mistakes.
Just like in this particular case, the online operation was smooth and successful. But then, real life extensions brought Buckett under the authorities’ attention. The fact that he missed a rent payment was the decisive factor in the process, despite having nothing to do with his drug operation.