DEA’s Undercover Operations Case Study Example
The Farmer’s Market was a complex website that provided extensive payment options, superior privacy and an exhaustive array of exotic produce. The website itself was untraceable to its originating IP address. It was masked by “The onion router”; an application that hides the actual IP address of a certain computer. Business was booming and the clientele was expanding; in fact it they even added a DEA agent to their list of valued customers. This was the beginning of the end for the equivalent of Narcotic Amazon for good. On 16th April 2012, the DEA aided by local and international law enforcement agencies brought the house crashing down on eight individuals who thought they could market LSD using social media.
Undercover operations are not a new avenue for the DEA. There have been several undercover operations including loaned out operations to other law enforcement agencies; the Richard Kuklinski case in the 1980s where agent Dominick Polifrone played a key role to apprehend and convict the mafia hit man. This time the undercover agent would use his computer skills to uncover the drug trafficking operation that sold illegal controlled substances to 3000 customers across 34 countries.
The agent logged on to a blog based on a tip and slowly made inroads towards placing orders for 30 grams of LSD for $2,160 through the Farmer’s Market. He also amassed a valuable collection of emails that were exchanged through the Canada based Hushmail email service provider. Apparently the ring leaders of the operation believed that Hushmail wouldn’t turn over confidential customer information (including emails) to law enforcement agencies. When the DEA believed it had enough evidence for an arrest, they swung into action and arrested 6 suspects in the United States; Jonathan Colbeck (51), Brian Colbeck (47), Ryan Rawls (31), Jonathan Dugan (27), George Matzek (20), and Charles Bigras (37). They also arrested the ring leaders, Marc Willems (42) in the Netherlands and Michael Evron (42) in Columbia as he attempted to flee to Argentina (DEA Newsroom, 2012).
Collaboration with foreign agencies
The key arrest of Marc Willems, the founder of the website enabled the DEA to comprehensively shutdown operations of the Farmer’s Market. The case also triggered a knee jerk response from law enforcement agencies to clampdown on similar operations. Marc Willems was arrested from his residence at Lelystad, Netherlands. The DEA’s Drug Flow Attack Strategy consists of a plan to train and support foreign narcotics law enforcement. This strategy also includes the sharing of intelligence and understanding to conduct joint operations (DEA, 2015). It was this strategy that landed Willems into the DEA’s dragnet. The Netherlands Regional Police Force Flevoland and prosecutors from the International Legal Assistance Center North East Netherlands played a key role in apprehending the kingpin of online narcotics trafficking.
Indictments, charges and pleas
The six of the eight defendants were indicted for charges including money laundering, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and distributing LSD. The ring leaders faced an additional charge apart from these charges; participating in a continuing criminal enterprise which has a maximum sentence of life in prison. There were also seven other unnamed defendants who were arrested and charged with distributing LSD (Schwartz, 2012).
On 4 September 2014, Marc Willems pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering charges. This brought a close to the trial proceedings since six others had already pled guilty to various charges and one of them had died.
In the aftermath of Operation Adams Bomb, law enforcement agencies around the world turned their attention to Tor. Tor or “The Onion Router” was initially designed by the US Navy to send complex messages without being intercepted. In subsequent months, the Silk Road website was targeted by the DEA and eventually had to shut down with the arrest of its founder Ross Ulbricht. There is also a weapons smuggling ring that is being investigated jointly by the DEA and Australian law enforcement agencies.
Clearly Tor has caught a lot of undue attention from the wrong quarters. However, this development has allowed the DEA and other international agencies to effectively enhance their war against the influx of controlled substances and the movement of illegally obtained firearms.
Criminals will keep refining their mode of operations to hide their clandestine trade from the prying eyes of law enforcement agencies. They improvise their modus operandi with every action taken by law enforcement personnel. The internet has provided multiple venues to advance the drug trade and utilize the technological advances to run the perfect illegal operation. Thanks to the DEA and its auxiliary systems, criminal elements continue to fail in their pursuit of staying ahead of the law.
The long term strategies placed by the DEA and the perseverance of its special operatives allow our country to be safer from vicious smugglers who have no value of the human life the drug destroys. The future of a strong and drug free America definitely needs the innovativeness and creative strategies adopted by federal and local anti-drug agencies.
DEA Newsroom Staff (2012). Operation Adam Bomb: Arrest of Creators, Operators of Online Secret Narcotics Marketplace. Retrieved from: http://www.dea.gov/divisions/hq/2012/pr041612ap.html
DEA Staff (2015). Foreign regions. Retrieved from: http://www.dea.gov/about/foreignoffices.shtml
Schwartz, Mathew J. (2012). Feds Bust 'Farmer's Market' For Online Drugs. Retrieved from: http://www.darkreading.com/attacks-and-breaches/feds-bust-farmers-market-for-online-drugs/d/d-id/1103901?