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Feds bust “Farmer’s Market,” an online illegal drug ring hidden by TOR

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The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, as well as state, and international authorities have arrested eight individuals linked to an online illegal drug store, known as the “The Farmer’s Market.” The online marketplace, which sold a variety of narcotics, including LSD, Ecstasy, mescaline, and marijuana, to about 3,000 people in 35 countries around the globe, used TOR software to hide the IP addresses of those involved.

A 66-page indictment, released this week, shows that the operators of The Farmer’s Market¬† processed around 5,000 orders, collectively valued at more than $1 million, between 2007 and 2009 alone. Buyers used a variety of payment services, including cash, PayPal and WesterUnion, to pay for the illegal drugs.

The bust, led by the DEA, was the result of “Operation Adam Bomb,” which was conducted over two years with assistance from internationa authorities in the Netherlands, Columbia, and Scotland; and federal, state, and local U.S. authorities in New York, Iowa, Georgia, Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Jersey.

“The drug trafficking organization targeted in Operation Adam Bomb was distributing dangerous and addictive drugs to every corner of the world, and trying to hide their activities through the use of advanced anonymizing on-line technology,” said Briane M. Grey, DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge, in a statement.¬†“Today’s action should send a clear message to organizations that are using technology to conduct criminal activity that the DEA and our law enforcement partners will track them down and bring them to justice.”

The operators of The Farmer’s Market “provided a controlled substances storefront, order forms, online forums, customer service, and payment methods for the different sources of supply,” according to the indictment.

Marc Willem, 42, the lead defendant in the case, was arrested on Monday at his home in Lelystad, Netherlands. Authorities seized Michael Evron, 42, a U.S. citizen living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Sunday, as he was attempting to leave Columbia, reports Ars Technica. The remaining defendants include Jonathan Colbeck, 51, of Urbana, Iowa; Brian Colbeck, 47, of Coldwater, Michigan; Ryan Rawls, 31, of Alpharetta, Georgia; Jonathan Dugan, 27, of North Babylon, New York; George Matzek, 20, of Secaucus, New Jersey; and Charles Bigras, 37, of Melbourne, Florida. Each of these men were arrested at their homes.

The 12-count indictment charges each of the eight men arrested with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. If convicted, each man faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

In addition to the eight arrested for operating The Farmer’s Market, authorities also arrested seven other individuals: two in the Netherlands, and five in the United States. Those individuals were not named, and were presumably patrons of The Farmer’s Market.

Despite the operators’ use of TOR, which makes it impossible to track a user’s IP address, the authorities say they were able to “infiltrate” the drug ring, which led to the arrests.

The takedown of The Farmer’s Market appears to have no connection to the “Silk Road” drug ring, which Gawker exposed last year.

View the full indictment below:

Willemsindictment Filed.045

Image via Aaron Amat/Shutterstock