A group of five University of Manchester students have been sentenced after trafficking over $1 million worth of drugs around the world.
The ‘Ivory’ account was used by the gang on the Silk Road, an online market on the dark web was used to make 6,305 illicit transactions stretching from Manchester to customers in Europe, America and Australia.
The students involved themselves with drugs recreationally during their first year of university.
They began selling in May 2011, after being inspired by the TV series Breaking Bad .
Their operation continued until October 2013 when the website was brought down by the FBI. The National Crime Agency (NCA) raided Assaf and Roden’s flat near university revealing a ‘drug dealing factory’ and the men were arrested. Officers discovered laptops used to access the dark web, thousands in cash, a baseball bat next to the front door and drugs including ecstasy, LSD, ketamine and diazepam.
During this two and half year period, the students sold 17kg of liquid ecstasy (equivalent of 240,000 tablets) through the post to customers, 1.2kg of 2CB, 1.4kg of ketamine as well as LSD.
Sales on the website equalled $1.14 million but the total value they made is expected to be higher as some drugs were supplied in person for cash and alternative online payment systems were utilised to evade the Silk Road commission fees.
Taking payment in electronic cryptocurrency Bitcoin, the group entertained a lavish lifestyle that prosecutors commented was ‘”far above that of typical students.”
The rise in the value of Bitcoin over this time will have seen the profits increase further. The group enjoyed holidays to Jamaica, the Bahamas and Amsterdam. One student claimed to have bought a Manchester City Centre flat and paid off student debt.
Ian Glover, who is the senior operations manager at the National Crime Agency, commented: “These five men were interested only in making money. They had no regard whatsoever for the harm these drugs could do to their users”.
All five men have received lengthy prison sentences after pleading guilty at prior hearings to conspiracy to importing, exporting and supplying controlled drugs.
Judge Michael Leeming sentenced the men to varying lengths based on their involvement:
- Ringleader Basil Assaf (26, Petrochemical Engineering) jailed for 15 years and three months
- James Roden (25, Computer Science) jailed for 12 years
- Jaikishen Patel (26, Pharmacology) jailed for 11 years and twi months
- Elliot Hyams (26, Geology) jailed for 11 years and two months
- Joshua Morgan (28, Marketing) jailed for seven years and two months
Judge Leeming told the defendants: “Drugs are a blight on our society. Misery and degradation is the typical result. As intelligent young men you will all each appreciate that misery is caused and certainly contributed to by people like you”
“My duty is threefold: firstly, to protect the public from people like you. Second, to punish you, and third, to deter those who may be similarly minded to act this way in the future”.