A District Court judge in Christchurch, New Zealand, sentenced a man to home detention for buying methamphetamine and ecstasy from vendors on the darkweb and reselling the drugs to local customers.
Timothy Robert Fearn, 33, of Christchurch, New Zealand, ordered drugs drugs from darkweb vendors in the Netherlands as well as vendors in the United States. He had the packages of drugs shipped to his home address in Christchurch.
“These websites allow people to order a wide variety of illegal items via the internet [and] these orders are sent internationally to an address and name supplied by the importer. Goods are also increasingly being paid for by the use of Bitcoins,” the Crown said.
Fearn’s arrest was a part of a New Zealand Customs Service operation called “Operation Skillet.” During Operation Skillet, the Customs Service screened incoming packages at the International Mail Centre at the Auckland Airport. Customs intercepted suspicious packages and seized the packages containing assorted contraband. The package seizures occurred between May and September 2016. Packages of methamphetamine and ecstasy addressed to Fearn’s Christchurch residence were among the packages seized by the New Zealand Customs Service.
Fearn reportedly attempted to avoid detection by using different fictitious names to receive packages. Investigators intercepted packages destined for Fearn’s address instead of packages bearing Fearn’s name, negating any possible advantage of using fake names. “It is common for the importer of these goods to use false or fictitious names but to use addresses that they have some sort of control over so they can retrieve the items when it arrives,” the Crown said.
The intercepted packages with Fearn’s address as the destination contained a total of only 27 grams of methamphetamine and 3.6 grams of ecstasy.
After the police had arrested Fearn, they questioned him about the source of the packages of drugs. Fearn admitted he had paid a co-conspirator to order drugs from various darkweb vendors. He knew the intercepted packages contained drugs, according to a statement provided to the police. He also admitted using some of the methamphetamine and distributing what remained. Investigators did not need his confession to prove Fearn’s role in drug distribution, though. Messages recovered from the man’s phone confirmed that drug users in Christchurch purchased drugs from Fearn.
Fearn pleaded guilty to two charges of importing methamphetamine and ecstasy in January 2020.
In July, Judge Raoul Neave sentenced Fearn to 11 months of home detention and warned him that another offense would result in a prison sentence. Fearn’s co-conspirators received the same sentences and warnings.
“You have come within a whisker of being imprisoned today,” the judge said.