In late August, a judge in Germany sentenced a 47-year-old man from Enschede to three years and nine months in prison for selling drugs on the dark web under the name “Johnny Cash.” According to information provided by law enforcement, the man informed on numerous co-conspirators, customers, and even an owner of the darknet marketplace he had been using to sell drugs.
The Regional Court in Münster, in the last week of August, heard the case of a 47-year-old man from Enschede who had recently been convicted of trafficking narcotic substances and aiding and abetting the trafficking of illegal substances both in person and through an unnamed dark web marketplace. Often, according to statements from the defense, the drug crimes were committed on behalf of larger dark web drug vendors. According to the 47-year-old, the dark web vendor account belonged to a much larger vendor and all crimes were committed in connection with him. The convicted drug trafficker explained that he had essentially worked as a shipper for bigger vendors versus controlling his own dark web vendor account and drug trafficking organization.
Officials at the Regional Court in Münster dismissed the defense’s arguments. The court did not necessarily believe the defense had fabricated the story; those specific details had an insignificant impact on the severity of the charges he had been accused of committing. For instance, investigators proved that the man had taken at least 10 trips to a post office in Alstätte and to public mailboxes in Ahaus, Alstätte and Wasting between November 2017 and February 2018. They also had evidence that proved he had taken the trips in an effort to ship packages of drugs far away from where he had been living at the time. The packages intercepted by German Customs officers that investigators linked to the 47-year-old contained amphetamine, cocaine, and hashish. Not all packages contained all three substances; many of the packages contained only one or two.
After German law enforcement had arrested the man, they launched an investigation into what the police later identified as a much larger drug trafficking organization. The police first investigated the 47-year-old’s customers. Based on information provided by the investigator who had worked on the case, it seems as if the man had not maintained a log of his customers or their addresses. Many recently arrested dark web vendors have kept unnecessarily detailed records of their sales and of their purchases from suppliers. A vendor who avoided logs could be considered a rare specimen, of sorts. Deleting customer information is something dark web vendors have been expected to do since the earliest days of dark web drug markets. Although many resources for dark web beginners state that vendors should be deleting logs, the practice has been somewhat of an unspoken law for those involved in the deep web drug scene. Recent court cases have revealed that vendors have been secretly ignoring this practice.
However, another unspoken rule is the one where vendors refuse to become police informants. And the 47-year-old became an informant for the police. However, his evidence against his customers was limited to the customers who had purchased drugs between November 2017 and February 2018. The police already had their names and information. The 47-year-old simply provided information about the customers that the investigators had not discovered on their own. This included information on the buying habits of some of the customers, the payments he had received from other drug suppliers for running their packages, and the connections between his customers and other drug distributors.
As of the sentencing hearing, three customers have been charged in connection with the 47-year-old’s drug trafficking operation. Two of those suspects have been arrested by German authorities. One of the suspects fled the country and is currently on the run, according to the prosecutor. The 47-year-old admitted to running drugs and shipping packages for an unknown amount of time that predated even the investigation that led to his arrest. And his confessions and cooperation with the police were the only reason his sentence was not lengthy, the court said.
If the man had not cooperated, “[the] punishment would have been a year higher,” the sentencing judge told the man. He received an additional reduction for agreeing to enter a drug addiction treatment facility for his admitted “addiction to marijuana.”