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German Men Sentenced for Shipping Packs for a Dark Web Vendor

A lengthy investigation in the town of Leonberg in the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg led to the arrest of two drug traffickers suspected of shipping hundreds of grams of marijuana and hashish to customers in Stuttgart, Cologne, Frankfurt, Munich and even Nuremberg. In a recent sentencing hearing, both (now convicted) drug traffickers received lenient prison sentences that the presiding judge suspended for the same length of time on government supervision of probation.

According to information revealed in court by the prosecution during an earlier hearing wherein the court found both defendants guilty of commercial narcotics trafficking in no small amount and found one defendant guilty of aiding and abetting the primary defendant. The hearing at the Leonberger Schöffengericht lasted hours as the prosecutors explained some of the complex parts of the investigation. Although the case shared elements with many dark web cases in Germany, the case also had a unique element: the primary defendant functioned as a glorified shipper for another dark web drug vendor he had never met in real life.

The court found two 30-year-old men guilty of shipping 400 grams of dry marijuana and another 180 grams of hashish between 2014 and 2015. However, these shipments only occurred after one of the men had started purchasing marijuana on the darknet for his own use. After a certain period of time and a fully developed relationship between one of the suspects and his dark web supplier, the buyer and seller came to a business agreement that led to both income and free marijuana for the buyer.

All the men had to do, according to information revealed in court, was ship packages of marijuana for the vendor. The (then) buyer held a small amount of the vendor’s stash and would package the product and deliver it to packing stations where he would mail the packages on behalf of the vendor. The vendor—who had allegedly lived in Germany—never revealed his identity to the men, according to the statements given by both men during questioning by the police, they only communicated with the vendor via encrypted messenger services where they had only used handles or usernames. The only currency the dealer paid the men was the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

In exchange for their services (which had initially consisted solely on dropping packages off at the post office), the primary conspirator received 10 percent of the sale and kept an undisclosed amount of marijuana for themselves.

As is often the case with German dark web busts, the police learned of the operation after one of the 30-year-olds had failed to apply the correct amount of postage to a package which sent it back to the package’s sender. And, of course, the sender’s address on the package had no connection to the actual vendor or shipper. The primary defendant had used one address as the return address for dozens of packages. According to the police, the person living at that address had received 14 packages that lacked the proper postage and contained various weights of marijuana. The unintended recipient took these packages to the police.

The police made which work of identifying the package shipper thanks to numbers on the package that matched dates and times recorded by security cameras at the postal stations. After directly connecting the primary defendant to one package filled with marijuana, the police secured a search warrant for the man’s apartment. They raided his apartment and discovered all materials needed to weigh and package drugs. They also found 40 grams of marijuana.

After arresting the primary defendant, German authorities learned that the man’s friend—another 30-year-old—had also shipped packages on behalf of the drug vendor. Although his role was initially disputed by the court, the judge finding agreed that not only had the man assisted his friend in selling drugs, he too had participated in the drug trafficking operation.

The judge sentenced the primary defendant to two years in prison and sentenced the man’s friend to 13 months in prison. He then suspended both sentences. The court agreed that the men had only participated in the drug trafficking operation due to financial hardships rather than entering the drug distribution game for profit alone. Both men worked regular jobs and admitted they struggled with both money and drug addiction.

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