Three residents of Leeds, England, have been found guilty of supplying fentanyl over the dark web and have been sentenced to a total jail term of more than four decades. Mandy Christopher Lowther, 21, Jake Levene, 22, and the oldest of the trio, Lee Childs, aged 45, confessed that they had been supplying the opioid to numerous customers all over the world.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) stated that they used the dark web market AlphaBay for their sales under an alias dubbed UKBargins. The NCA report also revealed that the trio discretely ran the business at an industrial plant in Morley, which is to the north of Leeds.
Lowther and Levene jointly managed the drug facility while Childs was in charge of packaging and delivering the drugs to customers by mail. They would mix fentanyl and carfentanyl analogue with other bulk adding substances, since the blend would bring better sales than pure products.
The information that led to the arrest of the three is quite unclear, although they were arrested in April 2017, just three months prior to the takedown of Alpha Bay and Hansa markets. Evidence used in court against them included a laptop which was displaying the UKBargins sales at the time of the police raid on the trio.
Other items recovered during the search include carfentanyl, weighing about 2.6kg, which, according to investigators, could have made many lethal doses. A packet of the blend contained 440g of pure carfentanyl, making it the single largest opioid seizure in Europe, according to the NCA.
Childs was also observed on a post office CCTV surveillance footage mailing numerous drug packages to his customers who were located as far away as Argentina, Singapore, and Australia. The list of drug buyers contained more than 600 names, some of whom had died due to the lethal drugs’ effects.
Reports state that the trio made more than £163,000 by selling a total of 2,853 packages in five months from December 2016 through April 2017. Out of the 443 global customers, 172 originated from the UK, and six of these had succumbed to the effects of the drugs and died.
On January 18, they were presented at the Leeds Crown Court where they pleaded guilty to two counts of crime for exportation and supplying the class A drugs. Lowther and Levene were each given a term of 16.5 years, and Childs received a term of 10.5 years.
The Senior Investigating Officer at NCA, Graham Roberts, stated that the lengthy prison terms given to the three reflect their risky and reckless actions. This is especially considering that they went to the extent of distributing the drugs internationally.
Roberts further stated that fentanyl and carfentanyl are quite potent and very dangerous. Carfentanyl itself has no known use in human beings and only brings about lethal effects.
Statistics show that fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin, had brought about the deaths of 75 people, while carfentanyl, which is 5,000 times more potent, was responsible for 27 deaths in England. Roberts added that the drugs are not only potentially fatal to those who use them but also to those who come into contact with them, including law enforcement officers, medical attendants, and postal staff.
Detective Pat Twiggs of the West Yorkshire Police stated that even if they lack proof that the drugs sold from Morley caused deaths directly, the substances have been linked to numerous fatalities. The trio, however, had washed their hands clean of the drugs’ potential dangers to their customers.
They had made a statement on their website saying that they were not liable to give any information concerning the drug to anyone. Instead, they claimed that customers should research the drug by themselves before thinking of using them as the drugs are extremely hazardous and fatal, especially if in the wrong hands.
Kathy Livick, the mother of a 33-year-old victim of the drugs, said that she hoped others would learn a lesson from her son’s death. She adds that it is highly advisable not to consume drugs whose potency or dose you are not aware of, especially those distributed during parties, concerts, festivals, or from the darknet itself.