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Judge Michael Leeming sentenced five University of Manchester students to prison for selling more than $1.2 million worth of drugs on the Silk Road. According to the NCA, authorities arrested the ring leader and his primary accomplice at their apartment in Manchester on the same day the FBI ended the Silk Road. The October 2013 arrests led to the discovery of an organized drug distribution ring at the university.
Basil Assaf led the group with James Roden as his partner. Jaikishen Patel, Elliot Hyams, and Joshua Morgan also worked for Assaf and received similar prison sentences. Their operation ended after the FBI uncovered their identity on the Silk Road and informed the NCA. The NCA raided the apartment that belonged to Assaf and Roden in October 2013. During the raid, authorities found cash, diazepam, ketamine, 11,000 doses of LSD, and ecstasy. They also found laptops that later served as key resources for investigators; label printers; scales; plastic bags; and mailing material.
At the time of their arrests, the sales totaled $1.2 million. However, bitcoin’s value has skyrocketed since 2013. Investigators traced the bitcoin transactions of the group but failed to find the money trail left by Assaf (or lack of money trail). All five men had originally sold drugs only to fellow students at the university. As they expanded, they ventured into the world of darknet drug distribution.
And according to the court, the men worked well as darknet drug dealers. A review on Silk Road called them the “drug dealer of the year.” One student reportedly owned his own house and had used his profits to repay his student loans. The court heard how the group partied in Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Amsterdam. Prosecutors told the court that the students had enjoyed a life “far above that of typical students.”
Sales records from the defunct marketplace revealed the weights and total quantities of drugs the group sold. For instance, they shipped a total of 17 kilograms of ‘liquid MDMA’, 1.2 kilograms of 2CB, and 1.4 kilograms of ketamine. The group likened themselves to the infamous TV drug dealer Walter White. They had a total of 6,305 sales on the marketplace but also sold to an unknown number of customers in person.
In total, the sentences added up to 56 years in prison. Judge Michael Leeming passed the lengthiest prison sentence down to Assaf for his role as the ring leader. He got a prison sentence of 15 years and three months. Roden caught a 12 year prison sentence. Hyams got a slightly shorter prison sentence of 11 year and three months. Patel received 11 years and two months in prison. And Morgan, for his role as the group’s shipper, caught the shortest sentence at 7 years and two months in prison.