National Crime Agency
‘Legal highs’ Silk Road vendors face jail for meth and cocaine dealing
One of the Silk Road’s most renowned British vendors and his business partner have been sentenced to a total of ten years after an NCA investigation uncovered the buying and selling of a catalogue of illegal drugs, including crack cocaine and methamphetamine. The pair publically claimed they were running a legitimate business selling legal highs.
Peter Ward, a self-proclaimed ‘psychonaut’, was known online as PlutoPete. His business specialised in supplying military-grade foil packaging that claimed to hide illegal materials from detection. He also provided new psychoactive substances, commonly referred to as legal highs, and drug paraphernalia.
Ward was arrested by NCA officers in Barnstaple, North Devon in October 2013 following an international operation targeting prominent vendors on Silk Road II.
Officers searched Ward’s rural home and found class A and B drugs and numerous computers. They also seized thousands of Post Office receipts with customer details.
Forensics analysis of the machines revealed extensive online activity, with 5,235 sales over two years.
The majority of sales related to legal items, but 54 transactions related to Class A and B drugs. Ward had also been sending ‘care packages’ of drugs hidden on blotter paper into prisons.
Analysis uncovered his close working with an ex-customer, Richard Hiley, who was commissioned by Ward to convert Bitcoins into cash.
In December 2013, NCA officers raided Hiley’s address in Oldbury, West Midlands, after financial records seized from Ward identified large scale transactions between the pair. Hiley’s computers and digital devices had messages from three separate Silk Road accounts named RichieRich, happyman and BITCOINS, which detailed 242 transactions related to the sale of cocaine, cannabis and methamphetamine.
2013-06-24- RichieRich (Hiley) to realbrandnew re: rules…“just ordered 50grams of meth so we can really sell it you can do hole g's, half's and 150mg bits and il do 3.5, 5, 7 and 14g's listings its getting expressed from the states so will be 4-5 days il send you 10 grams when it comes and you can pay it off once you sell it.”
The message logs also detailed how quickly Hiley’s business grew to a size where he began employing people to run the accounts.
21/07/2013 - “Bitcoins (Hiley)to PlutoPete “im so behind I brang matt to answer messages and I have a new girl who is doing 4hrs a day and made a contact in London who might buy happyman off me for a lump sum and a commsion, I have 66 messages and 28 orders witting here the more messages I answer the more they reply and keep on building….just got 14g of meth and the load from the company still to sell but had a good night in London but now need a team of helpers”
Messages recovered also highlighted the potential damage done by the drugs that Hiley was selling over the dark web marketplace.
09/07/2013 - LongRiver to happyman (Hiley) re: subject Hello, How to say it... I spent three week in hospital; the stuff was not good for my body. I fail to die. Are you sure of the quality of your production..”
Ward and Hiley pleaded guilty to 13 charges relating to the possession, supply and importation of Class A and B drugs. Hiley additionally pleaded guilty to two counts of importing a prohibited weapon after he imported five stun guns, claiming that they were for personal protection.
The pair were sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on 29 February to five years and two months and five years respectively.
Ian Glover, NCA Branch Commander, said:
“Criminals and their customers like to think that dark web market places provide an anonymous haven.
“The reality is that law enforcement works together internationally to identify and pursue these people.
“As in Ward’s case, dealers often don’t take any care in handling personal details of customers. We are working with our law enforcement partners to further identify and pursue those illegally trading in drugs and firearms online.”
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