A raid at a local hotel in Merrimack, New Hampshire led to the arrest of a couple suspected to be selling drugs on the dark web marketplace Dream Market.
Brian Knight and his girlfriend Tina Kearns were the targets of a year-long investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency as it tried to uncover an online drug distribution conspiracy, according to court documents from the U.S. District Court in Concord.
The couple operated from their hotel room on Executive Park Drive, which the DEA raided on August 27 to find drugs including heroin, measuring equipment and packaging material in addition to some other drug-related paraphernalia.
Special agent Austin Love from the DEA wrote about the investigation, saying that the couple sold both heroin and MDMA on the Dream Market Bazaar, a popular online marketplace where vendors anonymously peddle drugs like fentanyl, oxycodone, LSD, heroin and cocaine.
Usually, these vendors risk exposure when shipping their merchandise via the postal service.
As Love explained, the dark web can only be accessed using specific software and configurations, and this is primarily because many of its users prefer to stay anonymous.
The layered encryption system provided by the likes of Tor facilitates this.
Investigators stumbled upon the couple’s online nickname, 5th Avenue, during investigations that had begun in January.
Shortly afterward, they made a purchase from 5th Avenue—an unspecified amount of heroin for which they paid for in Bitcoin—which was delivered through the U.S. Postal Service.
The tracking number attached to the package was the cookie crumb the federal agents needed to track down 5th Avenue, and this is what gradually led to Knight’s arrest.
Through the tracking number, agents were able to find the debit card that was used to pay for the package’s shipping.
Coincidentally, this was the same debit card Knight used to pay for the hotel room where he and his girlfriend operated from.
Merrimack police had earlier received a tip from an unspecified source that Knight was spreading information about his online drug dealing business, telling people about the wares he peddled online and how he fulfilled his orders via the postal system.
As mentioned earlier, darknet vendors risk exposure when using the postal service to fulfill deliveries.
Knight was no different, and although he was a bit more careless than usual—he used the same debit card to pay for shipping his merchandise and the hotel room he operated from—many vendors have been nabbed through the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
No matter how many layers of encryption protects their identities online, they always fall short when it comes to deploying the same operation security in the real world.
Knight was arrested barely a month after a sealed warrant for a federal Florida court and slapped with charges of participating in a conspiracy to distribute banned substances.
The case was unsealed last Thursday in a Concord court, and Knight was transferred to law enforcement authorities in Florida.
As for Kearns, his girlfriend and partner-in-crime, she remains held in custody awaiting trial.