UNITED STATES NEWS

15 arrests in international online drug probe

Apr 16, 2012, 8:08 PM

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A sophisticated online drug marketplace that sold everything from marijuana to mescaline to some 3,000 people around the world has been cracked with the arrests of 15 people in several countries, U.S. authorities announced Monday.

An indictment unsealed in federal court in Los Angeles claims eight men ran “The Farmer’s Market,” which allowed suppliers of drugs _ including LSD, Ecstasy and ketamine _ to anonymously sell their wares online. They hooked up with buyers in 34 countries and accepted various forms of payment, including cash, Western Union and PayPal transactions, the indictment claims.

From 2007 to 2009 alone, the marketplace processed more than 5,000 orders for drugs valued at more than $1 million, federal officials contended. It began operations as far back as March 2006, authorities said.

The market “provided a controlled substances storefront, order forms, online forums, customer service, and payment methods for the different sources of supply” and charged the suppliers a commission based upon the value of the order, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.

“For customers, the operators screened all sources of supply and guaranteed delivery of the illegal drugs,” the statement said.

The alleged ringleader, Dutch citizen Marc Willems, 42, was arrested Monday at his home in Lelystad in the Netherlands, officials said.

Michael Evron, 42, a United States citizen living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was taken into custody on Sunday in Bogota, Colombia, authorities said.

The other six men were arrested at their homes. They are 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.

It was not immediately clear whether the men had obtained lawyers.

The 12-count indictment charges all eight men 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.

In addition, seven other people were arrested on suspicion of drug crimes Monday in the Netherlands, Georgia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, and authorities seized hallucinogenic mushrooms, hashish, LSD, marijuana and Ecstasy, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

The investigation led to those arrests, but authorities still were trying to determine their connections to the online marketplace, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin S. Rosenberg.

The two-year investigation, dubbed “Operation Adam Bomb, “involved law enforcement agents from several U.S. states and several countries, including Colombia, the Netherlands and Scotland, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

The case was filed in Los Angeles because some of the customers and an undercover agent who bought drugs through the marketplace are from the area, Rosenberg said.

“Illegal narcotics trafficking now reaches every corner of our world, including our home computers,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said in the statement. “But the reach of the law is just as long. … 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.”

The marketplace “was distributing dangerous and addictive drugs to every corner of the world, and trying to hide their activities through the use of advanced anonymizing online technology,” said Briane M. Grey, acting special agent in charge of the Los Angeles Field Division for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The marketplace allegedly used the Tor network, which spreads website and email communications through a volunteer network of servers around the world in order to mask Internet address information.

Tor originally was developed at a project of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to protect government communications. The free software and open network is used to prevent websites from tracking users, getting access to websites blocked by Internet providers, and providing anonymity for online users and online publishers. It is used by “normal people, the military, journalists, law enforcement officers, activists, and many others,” according to the Tor Project website.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

Associated Press

Suspect in killing of Idaho sheriff’s deputy fatally shot by police, authorities say

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho sheriff’s deputy died after being shot by a driver during a traffic stop, and a man believed to be the shooting suspect was later fatally shot by police, authorities said Sunday. Deputy Tobin Bolter was shot as he approached the driver’s window at about 9 p.m. Saturday in Boise, […]

45 minutes ago

Associated Press

Woman, 18, dies after being shot at Delaware State University; campus closed

DOVER, Del. (AP) — An 18-year-old woman died after she was shot on the campus of Delaware State University on Sunday, authorities said. Dover police said officers responded at about 1:40 a.m. to a report of shots on the campus. Police said an 18-year-old Wilmington woman who was not a registered student was found with […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

North Carolina medical marijuana sales begin at Cherokee store

CHEROKEE, N.C. (AP) — Medical marijuana can now be legally purchased in North Carolina with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opening its long-planned dispensary this weekend on tribal land. Hundreds of people, many with approved medical patient cards to purchase items, celebrated the historic opening of the Great Smoky Cannabis Co. on Saturday within […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Conductor Andrew Davis dies at 80, headed Lyric Opera of Chicago and orchestras on 3 continents

Andrew Davis, an acclaimed British conductor who was music director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and orchestras on three continents, has died. He was 80. Davis died Saturday at Rusk Institute in Chicago from leukemia, his manager, Jonathan Brill of Opus 3 Artists, said Sunday. Davis had been managing the disease for between 1 […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Chicago police officer fatally shot overnight while heading home from work

CHICAGO (AP) — A 30-year-old Chicago police officer was shot and killed overnight on the city’s southwest side while heading home from work, police said Sunday. Superintendent Larry Snelling told reporters the officer was going home and still in uniform, but wearing something on top of the uniform to cover it as is customary for […]

7 hours ago

Palestinians inspect the destruction following an Israeli military raid in Nur Shams refugee camp, ...

Associated Press

Israeli strikes on southern Gaza city of Rafah kill 22, mostly children, as US advances aid package

Israeli strikes on Rafah killed 22 people, as the United States was on track to approve billions in additional military aid to Israel.

14 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

15 arrests in international online drug probe