The Farmer's Market
Screenshot of a section of The Farmer's Market
Type of site
The Farmer's Market, formerly Adamflowers, was an online darknet marketplace operating on the Tor anonymity network since 2010. It was closed and several operators and users arrested in April 2012 as a result of Operation Adam Bomb, a two-year investigation led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The online black marketplace was launched in or before 2006 as Adamflowers. The site connected and mediated transactions for buyers and sellers of illicit substances through extensive use of Hushmail, an encrypted email service promoted as private and anonymous. It moved operations to a hidden site on the Tor network in 2010, changed its name to The Farmer's Market, and greatly expanded its services to offer not just a venue for transactions but also customer service features more common to traditional eCommerce, such as guaranteed shipment and merchant screening. Ars Technica described it as "like an Amazon for consumers of controlled substances."
The Farmer's Market generated revenue through commissions based on the size of each purchase. An estimated 3000 people in all 50 U.S. states and 34 other countries made transactions and, according to DEA estimates, the site processed about $1 million between 2007 and 2009, and in 2011 the owners reaped $261,000 through PayPal alone. The site allowed for several forms of payment including cash, PayPal, Western Union, Pecunix, and I-Golder. To blur the path between customers, the site, and sellers, additional parties known as "cash drops" were paid a fee to receive payment from customers and forward it in another payment form to one of multiple bank accounts or mailing addresses in Panama and elsewhere. Among the drugs sold at the site were LSD, MDMA, mescaline, fentanyl, ketamine, DMT, hashish, and marijuana, some of which carry substance-specific criminal penalties, depending on country.
Operation Adam Bomb
Over the course of two years the DEA conducted an investigation of The Farmer's Market in cooperation with local U.S. state and international authorities in the Netherlands, Colombia, and Scotland. The investigation used the codename Operation Adam Bomb, after the original name of the site, Adamflowers.
In a public statement, the DEA claimed to have "infiltrated" the marketplace and to have successfully purchased a large quantity of LSD. The indictment contained evidence in the form of hundreds of incriminating emails from 2006-2010, one of which included a comment that described Hushmail, the service they had been using to send the emails in the indictment, as "an encrypted and safe method of communication [which] would not produce e-mails to law enforcement officers." Though Hushmail's complicity with police was not made explicit in the indictment, Wired, Forbes, and the Tor blog connected suggested it would be likely given previous privacy concerns about the site. The undercover officer who had purchased LSD was party to a several of the included emails. The indictment also indicated cooperation by the U.S. Postal Service and included as evidence that particular defendants had received envelopes at a post office box.
The investigation culminated in the April 2012 arrest of eight individuals connected to the site. The law enforcement agency's 66-page, 12-count indictment named lead defendant Marc Willems of the Netherlands and Michael Evron of the United States as the two who functioned as "organizer, supervisor, and manager" of the site. The two were charged with "participating in a continuing criminal enterprise," five of the men were charged with distributing LSD in particular, and all eight with money laundering and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Seven other arrests were made of unnamed individuals, likely site users.
By the end of 2014, seven of the eight people indicted had entered guilty pleas. The eighth died before the trial began. In September 2014, Willems pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering charges, and was given a 10-year prison sentence that December.
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