In a multi-agency investigation, U.S. law enforcement authorities managed to arrest four suspects in Georgia. Two of the defendants were already charged with firearm trafficking.
According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, the 28-year-old Gerren Johnson of Austell and the 29-year-old William Jackson of East Point were arrested in May. Court documents stated that the two had used the dark web to smuggle weapons to multiple foreign countries.
“Relying on the anonymity of the internet, these defendants hoped to circumvent federal firearms laws,” U.S. Attorney John Horn said.
In June 2013, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and “other agencies” started investigating a case where the suspects allegedly used marketplaces on the dark web, including Black Market Reloaded (BMR), Utopia, and Agora, to sell weapons to customers located in abroad countries. The investigation showed that the defendants were using the “CherryFlavor” and “WorldWide Arms” pseudo names to sell the firearms.
For shipping the firearms, the defendants allegedly hid the illegal goods in electronic devices and delivered them to customers in foreign countries, such as Canada or the United Kingdom, using the postal service. The investigation revealed that the suspects purchased the weapons legally from a website called OutDoorTraders. After they had the firearms, they allegedly advertised them on darknet marketplaces and exported them to abroad customers.
“Organized criminal groups often rely on the availability of weapons to carry out their activities; thus, the market for illegal firearms around the world,” Special Agent in Charge Wayne Dixie of the ATF Field Division said in a statement.
Investigators issued federal search warrants, trace interviews, which allegedly connected all firearms recovered from the original purchasers in the Atlanta area, to the defendants. Law enforcement authorities also managed to find shipping information on approximately 50 orders conducted by customers located in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden. The investigators shared these details with their abroad colleagues, which will most likely result in more arrests and charges in the case. Police did not disclose how they had found the details on the packages. However, in most cases, investigators seized the electronic devices of the defendants. Therefore, after a thorough forensic examination, law enforcement authorities are able to log into the vendor account of the suspects or find a list with detailed information on either the orders conducted on dark net marketplaces or the customers of the criminals.
According to the US Department of Justice, further members of the CherryFlavor criminal group have also been identified and arrested by the investigators. Two defendants – Sherman Jackson and Brendan Person – were located in Atlanta. Court records showed that both Jackson and Person had entered pleas of guilty.
Both Johnson and Jackson were indicted by a federal grand jury on May 3.