A Warwickshire man will spend nearly 12 years in prison for buying MDMA on the darkweb and selling it to customers locally.
Joe Richens, 31, of Leamington, Warwickshire, pleaded guilty to importing and distributing MDMA, cocaine, and money laundering. According to the Warwickshire Police, Richens purchased MDMA and cocaine from darkweb vendors in the Netherlands.
The police, in a recent announcement, said the investigation into Richens lasted two years. The investigation was a part of “Operation Celsius,” they revealed. In 2018, customs officials at the Coventry Airport intercepted a suspicious package addressed to Richens. After opening the package, the customs officials found more than 280 grams of cocaine and almost 7,000 ecstasy pills. Using police-math, investigators valued the drugs at £100,000.
During their two-year investigation, the police linked Richens to 13 drug importations, including a package with 121 grams of cocaine and a package with 263 grams of MDMA. During a hearing at Warwick Crown Court, the prosecution said that Richens had imported and distributed up to 40 kilograms of drugs.
The police found three phones, a USB drive, and a hotel key after arresting Richens. During a search of his hotel room, the police found a machine used to seal packages, a scale, an assortment of packing supplies, and 576 ecstasy pills. Richens refused to decrypt his phone and the USB drive for investigators. However, the police extracted a single conversation from one of the phones. The conversation revealed that Richens had purchased Bitcoins worth £63,245.
In court, the prosecution accused Richens of earning £130,000 through his drug trafficking operation.
Richens pleaded guilty to:
- offering to supply MDMA;
- offering to supply cocaine;
- possession with intent to supply MDMA;
- money laundering;
- two counts of conspiring to fraudulently evade a prohibition on the importation of a Class A drug.
On July 29, 2020, Judge Anthony Potter in the Warwickshire Crown Court sentenced Richens to 11 years and six months in prison.
This result should send a clear message to those who believe they can hide behind the shadow of the dark web. We will use all of the tools available to us to investigate such crime and prevent technology from being used to commit a serious and organized crime.
– Detective Inspector Richard Brown