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In late March, DeepDotWeb covered the arrests of several college students in Athens, Ohio, who had been buying drugs on the darknet and reselling them to fellow students and classmates. The case involved a wide spread of law enforcement agencies such as Athens County Sheriff’s Deputies, the United States Postal Service, and even the U.S. Marshals Service. During the investigation, Athens County Prosecutor Keller J. Blackburn proudly vocalized his first case with court documents that included the word “bitcoin.” Now, in one of his most recent press releases, Prosecutor Blackburn announced the sentencing of one of the primary suspects (via Protector Blackburn’s Facebook account).
The newly sentenced student, Zachary Vaughn, 22, of Athens, Ohio, was one of the two students who brought the operation crumbling down. In early January 2018, Athens law enforcement arrested Vaughn and a fellow Ohio University student named Cody Wootton. The police arrested both students following a string of non-fatal overdoses that led back to Vaughn and Wootton. After their arrests for drug trafficking, both students told investigators that they had been buying drugs on the darknet with bitcoin and then redistributing the drugs locally.
The two students allowed the investigators to access their darknet market accounts and PGP keys. They did this of their own free will and seemingly received nothing—such as a reduced sentence or even a mention in court—in return. An analysis of the messages between the students and their darknet vendor led investigators to Forest City, Iowa. Somehow, there, the Department of Transportation played a role in the investigation. The press release did not explain how the United States government body responsible for handling transportation aided in a darknet drug trafficking investigation.
In Forest City, Iowa, investigators caught two men responsible for supplying the Athens students with oxycodone and other pharmaceutical drugs. Anthony Scott Boeckholt, the primary Iowa suspect, is now serving 10 years in prison for three counts of Aggravated Drug Trafficking, Engaging in a Pattern of Corrupt Activity, and one count of Money Laundering. The second Iowa man temporarily evaded police custody but ultimately landed in an Ohio court on charges of Engaging in a Pattern of Corrupt Activity and Money Laundering.
The investigation did not end there, though. Athens police worked their way through other students at the university until they found another set of students to charge. Three students—Andrew Kamer, Nicholas Sahagian, and David Grimm—were charged with Permitting Drug Use. All three men shared a house with Wootton. Connor Brockman, Shannon King and Jonathan McLaughlin. These three students with very little involvement, were charged with Conspiracy.
Wootton, late last month, was sentenced to three years in an Ohio prison for Conspiracy. Now, only weeks later, his primary accomplice will be joining him behind bars. Judge George P. McCarthy sentenced Vaughn to three years in prison and three years of supervised release.