British MDMA Darknet dealer faces 12 years in prison

08/04/2020Law Enforcement, UK

Joe Richens, 31, from Leamington, pleaded guilty to seven charges relating to the importation of Class A drugs which he had obtained from Holland on the dark web before distributing throughout the country.

At Warwick Crown Court on Wednesday (29 July), he was handed out two sentences of 11.5 years on two counts of attempting to fraudulently circumvent a ban on the importation of a Class A drug (MDMA and cocaine).

He was also sentenced to eight years for attempting to supply MDMA, a term of eight years for trying to supply cocaine, and a six-year term for possession with intent to supply MDMA.

The judge also handed down a two-year term for a concealing, converting and transfering of stolen property. All these sentences are to run concurrently.

The inquiry, codenamed Operation Celsius, started in February 2018 following the discovery of £ 100,000 worth of cocaine and MDMA at Coventry Airport, which was bound for Richens at his work address via a mailbox service. Officers later discovered that Richens had developed a complex drug supply network and was responsible for a further 13 imports into the country.

He worked using the dark web, sending vast sums of cash to crypto currency brokers, who in effect would supply him with bitcoins, which he then bought from Holland for large quantities of Class A narcotics. The inquiry into his finances found he had obtained hundreds of thousands of pounds from drug sales into his bank account, and had been regularly involved in serious criminal activity since 2012.

After arresting Richens, police found three phones, a USB drive, and a hotel key. Police discovered a machine used to seal packages, a scale, a range of packaging materials, and 576 ecstasy pills during a search of the hotel room. Richens denied investigators to access his phone and Flash drive. Nevertheless, one single conversation was captured from one of the phones by police. The conversation revealed that Richens had purchased Bitcoins worth £63,245.

At trial, Richens was accused by the prosecution of receiving £130,000 from its drug distribution activity. Officers will now seek to ensure Richens cannot benefit from the proceeds of his crime through the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA). A hearing has been set for September.