Two men from Co Antrim pleaded guilty to conspiring to order firearms from an undisclosed dark web marketplace. The two were arrested in February 2017, after they attempted to obtain two handguns; a Glock 17 and a Glock. According to a police statement, the two were procuring the weapons for another individual whose name they did not disclose.
Darren Bennett, 23, of Newtown Abbey and 43-year-old Thomas Morgan from Burnside road, Doagh, were victims of undercover cops disguised as weapons dealers. Bennett initiated the trade on February 10, 2017, by contacting a firearms vendor going by the name Joe whom he told was looking for Glocks. Joe offered to sell a Glock 19 for £2,000 and the Glock 17 for £900.
As disclosed by the prosecution the vendor asked Bennett what he intended to do with the weapons as he did not want to get involved in a crime. Bennett consulted with Morgan via WhatsApp who told him to tell the vendor that the guns would not be used to carry out any illegal activity. Bennett then got back to Joe and told him that he intended to keep a weapons collection.
Appearing satisfied by Bennett’s use for the weapons Joe scheduled the delivery of the weapons for the 17th of February. Joe asked Bennett to meet a man named Danny at Belfast Central Station. Danny would make the delivery on behalf of Joe. Bennett disclosed the exchange plan to Morgan who instructed him to have the weapons tested before making any payment.
Bennett did not show up for the pick up on time and rescheduled it for 2 pm at Yorkgate the same day. Bennett showed up at Yorkgate to pick his weapons as agreed and unknowingly handed himself over to the undercover cops who were patiently waiting for him to show up. On arrival at the exchange point, Bennett told Danny that he only had enough cash to purchase one of the weapons. Danny did not raise any issue with that and gave Bennett a pair of gloves and asked him to follow him to the boot of his car where he had kept the weapons. Danny then handed over the guns to Bennett for inspection at which point he introduced himself as a cop and arrested Bennett.
Bennett’s arrest resulted in investigations against him and anyone else he had contacted in that period. The investigations resulted in the interception of a package addressed to Bennett. The package contained cocaine and MDMA the police believe he intended to sell. Once questioned Bennett agreed that he had accessed the dark web but, in an attempt, to purchase a pellet gun.
The police then arrested Morgan on the 19th of February two days after Bennett’s arrest. According to a statement released by the police, Morgan claimed he only knew Bennett as a friend to his son. He also claimed that Bennett had drug use issues. Morgan, however, denied partnering with Bennett in the dark web Glocks purchase deal. Morgan was not lucky enough as messages obtained from his confiscated iPhone disclosed his conversations with Bennett, that clearly showed how invested he was in the weapons deal.
The prosecution led by Sam Magee said that the Judge charged Morgan and Bennett with conspiracy to acquire handguns and ammunition and intentionally attempting to possess weapons illegally. In addition to these charges, the prosecution charged Bennett with attempted possession of class A drugs for sale. Magee told Judge Desmond Marrinan of Belfast Crown Court that the two conspired and did everything in their power to ensure they gained access to the weapons over a dark web marketplace.
Having seen the evidence presented against them by the prosecution, Morgan and Bennett instead of fighting, pleaded guilty to conspiring to acquire handguns and their ammunition. Bennett also pleaded guilty to the attempt of possessing Cocaine and MDMA with the intention of selling.
Having pleaded guilty to the above charges, Judge Marrinan pronounced them not guilty of any other charges leveled against them by the prosecution. Judge Marrinan then released Morgan and Bennett on an already existing bail as they await their sentencing in December.