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A recent press release from the UK’s National Criminal Agency revealed that three suspected darknet vendors admitted running the Alphabay account “UKBargins.” According to their own admissions recently made in court, the trio distributed fentanyl, carfentanil, furanyl-fentanyl, butyr-fentanyl, and other fentanyl analogues from December 2016 up until their April 2017 arrests. Customer lists seized during law enforcement raids led to the discovery that six, if not more, customers of UKBargins had overdosed on fentanyl or a similar drug provided by the trio.
Unlike many recent fentanyl-related arrests, the UKBargins trio exclusively sold opioids that they had accurately advertised as incredibly potent and potentially lethal drugs. Of course, this is only true as far as court documents, press releases, and darknet market listings have revealed. With investigators uncovering new information on a routine basis through related drug busts, evidence uncovered later could prove contradictory.
Even though Lee Childs, 45, Christopher Lowther, 21, and Jake Levene, 22, sold customers fentanyl in a manner only describable as “up-front” when compared to the vendors selling counterfeit oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl, the trio’s seemingly blatant disregard for drug safety served as a focal point of the prosecution’s case. On the Alphabay listings posted by UKBargins, a block of text prevented buyers or would-be buyers from asking questions about the UKBargins’ products. “I WILL NOT GIVE ANY INFORMATION ABOUT FENTANYL OR ITS ANALOGUES AS THE CUSTOMER SHOULD ALREADY OF RESEARCHED [sic] THESE CHEMICALS BEFORE EVEN CONTEMPLATING USING THEM AS THEY ARE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS & LETHAL IN THE WRONG HANDS,” the warning read.
Under the UKBargins username, the men shipped 2,853 individual orders to customers worldwide. Their operation brought in roughly $216,000. When split up three ways and then seized by the NCA, the profit seems far less appealing.
No criminal should—in reality—receive credit for not committing worse crimes. As far as fentanyl distribution went, UKBargins did everything correctly even by the prosecution’s own explanation. The vendor listed drug purities on the page of each drug listing. And not purities in the normal sense of the word; UKBargins sold the fentanyl analogues in mediums that simplified shipping, packing, handling, and even ingestion. For instance, the trio had a listing for fentanyl mixed with mannitol for simplified dosing. Many of the products had similar listings. But UK authorities spoke of the dangerous “mixes” of substances the group sold.
The group had a body count, though. Greg McKenna, a head investigator at the NCA said the men “knew exactly how lethal the drugs were but continued to sell them.” He added that 120 people in the UK have fatally overdosed using fentanyl since December 2016—the same month the men started selling drugs. “We have taken out a main supplier but the threat from synthetic opioids remains and we will continue to respond to this UK-wide threat with our law enforcement partners.”