Man Sentenced for Role in Darknet Drug Conspiracy

A judge in the district court of Münster sentenced a 24-year-old man from Steinfurt to four years and nine months in prison for his role in a darknet drug trafficking operation. The man never sold drugs directly. The number of so-called “gang members” is unknown, but this was the sixth sentence handed down in Germany’s case against the organization. The two leaders have not been caught.

The group started importing massive quantities of ecstasy, MDMA crystals, cocaine, marijuana, and heroin from the Netherlands in 2015. The leaders of the group turned around and sold the drugs to customers on the darknet. When he still worked with the group, the leaders tasked the 24-year-old with packaging products. The packaging, in the beginning, required minimal effort. The defendant told the court that the group made 10 sales a day in the beginning (thus requiring 10 packages).

As time went on, the operation grew. He said that he shipped between 60 and 70 packages every day. He added that the weight of the drugs shipped daily was roughly to 20 kilograms. The group took operational security fairly seriously. For 1,000 euros a week, the 24-year-old procured three things: packages, bubble wrap, and DVD cases. He then went to one of three apartments in North Rhine-Westphalia where the group’s packaging took place. The location of each day’s work randomly rotated. The leaders only contacted the ’employees’ through burner phones.

The group members who entered and worked in the apartment wore protective suits, gloves, mouth guards, and hairnets. Leaving any trace of DNA was not an option. The prosecutor pointed out the professional approach to drug trafficking taken by the group. According to the prosecutor, groups of this size never operate in a similar manner.

In February 2017, police intervened. The prosecutor explained that the police caught a break when they spotted a female throwing dozens of identical packages into mailboxes in Greven and nearby areas. Although their intervention did not get any group members, it disrupted the group’s ability to import drugs from the Netherlands. Many group members, including the 24-year-old, fled to the Netherlands to avoid prosecution. Orders scattered elsewhere.

In the Netherlands, the group members used fake identities to stay off the grid. They rented an apartment and kept their heads down. However, the 24-year-old had a disagreement with the group in June 2017. He left the Netherlands and travelled to his hometown of Steinfurt. The police caught him not long after he had arrived.

The judge handed down a prison sentence of four years and nine months. He told the man that the sentence was a light sentence even compared to the offense. But the judge recognized the defendant’s willingness to cooperate with the authorities. The 24-year-old had signed a full confession and had aided police in their investigation into the group’s leaders. Furthermore, the judge pointed out that the man only packaged drugs. He had no influence and made no decisions.