21 March 2018
The five members of prolific dark web drug dealing group have been jailed for a total of 56 years following a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation.
Londoners Basil Assaf, Elliot Hyams, Jaikishen Patel, all 26, and James Roden, 25 were students at Manchester University when they began selling drugs on the notorious Silk Road website.
Junior member Joshua Morgan, 28, of Manchester, was paid to package drugs for the group.
Silk Road, modelled on sites such as eBay and Amazon, was on a part of the internet known as the dark web and was used to sell a variety of illicit goods, though it was most well-known for drug sales.
Led by Assaf, the group moved their small-time drug dealing operation on to Silk Road in May 2011 and were soon running one of its most successful businesses.
Under the brand-name Ivory they sent drugs including LSD, ecstasy, 2CB, ketamine and valium to buyers around the world.
Over the course of 6,305 individual sales, the students sent almost 17kg of liquid ecstasy, equivalent to 240,000 tablets, through the post to buyers.
They also sent more than 1.2kg of 2CB and more than 1.4kg of ketamine. They sent LSD both in small bottles and in individual doses on paper, stamps and sweets.
They netted at least $1.14m (about £812,000), though where possible they took cash or crypto currencies, meaning the total value of sales is likely to be considerably greater.
The online shop funded a luxury lifestyle for the group including holidays in the Bahamas and Jamaica, as well as weekends partying with suppliers in Amsterdam.
But the party atmosphere eventually gave way to vicious infighting, with Assaf sacking Hyams over his unreliability and Hyams making off with a large quantity of drugs as compensation.
In a bitter text exchange Assaf said to Hyams: “I won’t hesitate to ruin your life. Your mother will find out the truth.”
Assaf followed through on the threat, texting Hyams’s mother details of his drug dealer lifestyle.
In October 2013 the FBI shut down the Silk Road and seized its servers.
The FBI shared information which meant NCA officers could catch Assaf’s group by surprise, arresting him and Roden at their shared flat in Manchester shortly after the site stopped working.
The officers found four sets of scales, heat sealing devices, envelopes and jiffy bags, label printers, £4,500 in cash and more than 11,000 individual doses of LSD.
Hyams was arrested the same day while officers arrested Patel, who worked with Assaf and Roden throughout, a year later.
The five were sentenced at Manchester Crown Court today to the following:
Assaf: 15 years and three months
Roden: 12 years
Patel: 11 years and two months
Hyams: 11 years three months
Morgan: 7 years and two months
Total: 56 years and ten months
Ian Glover, senior operations manager at the NCA, said: “These five men were interested only in making money. They had no regard whatsoever for the harm these drugs could do to their users.
“The FBI’s excellent work shut the site down in 2013 in a globally significant operation and information they shared with us enabled us to identify, arrest and successfully build this case.
“Sites on the dark net represent a new variation on old crimes and are dealt with accordingly.
“The NCA has the capability and determination to bring offenders targeting the UK to justice regardless of how secure they feel hiding behind technology.
"We collaborate with our international partners in order to make the dark web a less attractive place for criminals to operate.
“We are taking steps against those that sell illegal commodities, which is part of a wider strategy to tackle online marketplaces."