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24th August 2015

Student drug kingpin jailed

Liam Reynolds and a gang of Leeds students ordered drugs from abroad using the Silk Road marketplace and sold them on to students

A Leeds student has been jailed for four years after running a lucrative drug ring using the Dark Web.

Liam Reynolds and a group of friends, who studied International Business at what was then Leeds Metropolitan University (now Beckett), used the now-disabled Silk Road website to buy and import drugs using the bitcoin cryptocurrency.

The operation was run out of a student house in Headingley Mount, a suburb of Leeds, where members of the group lived.

Using the Dark Web—a part of the internet not indexed by search engines, which needs specific software to be accessed—the gang ordered shipments of illegal drugs including LSD, MDMA and cannabis from abroad.

Once the deliveries had been received, they profited by selling it on to fellow students. They were able to get away with this by using the untraceable bitcoin.

After police received a tip-off that the gang had involvement in the trade of illegal drugs, they uncovered the operation and seized, amongst other things, a large shipment of cannabis and the men’s phones and laptops.

They found text messages making overt references to drugs and photos of the friends with drugs and money. The gang was charged in May last year.

Reynolds had apparently modelled himself on Breaking Bad character Walter White, a man who leaves his job as a teacher and builds a drug empire. Text messages and a T-shirt referring to the American TV show were found by police.

Liam Reynolds was sentenced to four years in prison at Leeds Crown Court last week for conspiracy to import and supply ecstasy, conspiracy to import and supply LSD, conspiracy to import and supply cannabis, and money laundering.

The other nine received two-year suspended sentences of between eight and 24 months and 200 hours of unpaid work.

Detective Inspector Jaz Khan, head of the district’s specialist drugs team, said: “This was a very sophisticated and highly organised criminal enterprise that for a sustained period of time imported substantial quantities of controlled drugs into the UK and supplied them in the city’s student community.

““They thought that they could frustrate law enforcement by using the internet’s Dark Web to avoid detection but that proved not to be the case.

“These men were studying at university and had opportunities open to them that many others don’t but instead of putting their efforts into their legitimate academic endeavours they chose to operate a criminal trade in drugs.

“We hope the sentences they have received will serve as a stark reminder to others of the penalties they will face if they choose to involve themselves in the supply of controlled drugs.”

The Silk Road was a market hosted on the Dark Web where international purchases of illegal products, including drugs, weapons, and stolen credit cards, were made. In May 2015, Ross Ulbricht—understood to be the Dread Pirate Roberts, the pseudonym under which the Silk Road was run—was sentenced to life imprisonment for his crimes.

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