In very early 2017, law enforcement throughout Germany conducted raids and arrested seven men for suspected darknet narcotics distribution. Two lived in Duisburg. The others lived or worked in Hameln, Goslar, Vreden, Saarbrücken, and Eslohe. According to investigators, the crew so sold on the darknet between 2012-2016 – until their arrests. In April, the group got sentenced.
The entire discovery, as explained by press releases, routinely referred to two groups of three; one group operated the offline parts of drug dealing. Like many group that end in arrest, this group handled the packaging and shipping of the drugs. This, too, included fetching incoming orders and producing drugs. A DeepDotWeb author, Benjamin Vitáris, pointed out that law enforcement found an apartment in Duisburg that served as a base of operations for the so-called “offline part” of the operation. They received orders, produced drugs, packaged and addressed drugs, and then shipped them out through Germany’s National Postal System.
The second group of three were by default the “online part” of the investigation. They handled storefronts, vendor accounts, and forum handles. According to the investigators, the group acted in this capacity from 2012–2016, law enforcement explained. The marketplaces and forums went unannounced, but vending on anywhere but the Silk Road in 2012 would have been a difficult task. Especially for the seventh member of the group.
He, at the time of the crimes he committed, was only 18-year-old. And only 20 or 21 at his arrest. His crimes were insignificant compared to those of his associates that the headlines went from mentioning a group of seven people to a group of six. The sentencing in April reflected this; three men between the ages of 20 and 30 received prison sentences between three years to four years and nine months; another three men, between the ages of 22 and 24 received similar sentences, but had the opportunity to avoid prison via a pretrial diversion with unreleased terms—basically sentence suspended upon completion of probation, rehabilitation programs, community service hours, or any combination of the similar options; the “18-year-old,” though hardly received a mention.
The District Court of Duisburg, where the entire group stood for sentencing, acknowledged the young man. Despite the fact that, at the time he worked with another 18-year-old, his role in the conspiracy dwindled after only a short period of time. Between both 18-year-olds, only 50 kilograms of marijuana, amphetamine, and cocaine entered circulation. One of the 18-year-olds moved on and worked more hands-on until the arrest, both disqualifying him from a lesser punishment as a teenager and adding to the charges with additional crimes.
Two elements of this case stand out when compared to others of a similar magnitude. First, the North Rhine-Westphalia Cybercrime prosecutor needed hours to read the charges and hours to read the sentencing. And second, the Federal Criminal Police Office in Wiesbaden “had the opportunity” to buy an entire darknet forum. Investigators analyzed the data and forum that point on, “had them on the trail.”