The Farmer's Market

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The Farmer's Market
Imag0544w.jpg
Screenshot of a section of The Farmer's Market
Type of site
Darknet market
CommercialYes
Launchedc. 2006
Current statusInactive

The Farmer's Market, formerly Adamflowers, was an online black market for illegal drugs. It was founded by Marc Peter Willems in or before 2006, and moved operations to the dark web in 2010 using the Tor anonymity network. 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 (DEA).

Drug market[edit]

The online black marketplace was launched in or before 2006 by Marc Peter Willems as Adamflowers.[1][2][3] The site connected buyers and sellers and mediated transactions of illicit substances through extensive use of Hushmail, an encrypted email service promoted as private and anonymous.[1][2] It moved operations to a hidden site on the Tor network in 2010 and changed its name to The Farmer's Market. At the same time, it 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.[1][4] Ars Technica described it as "like an Amazon for consumers of controlled substances."[5]

The Farmer's Market generated revenue through commissions based on the size of each purchase. The site allowed for several forms of payment including cash, PayPal, Western Union, Pecunix, and I-Golder. It managed all communications between buyers and sellers, and blurred the path between them by adding intermediaries known as "cash drops" who were paid a fee to receive payment from customers and forward it in another payment form to one of multiple bank accounts. The intermediaries and bank accounts were located in places like Panama or Budapest.[6][7][8] According to DEA estimates, the site processed about $1 million between 2007 and 2009, and in 2011 the owners made $261,000 through PayPal alone.[2][4][5][9][10] By 2012, about $2.5 million had been transferred through the site in total.[8]

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 the country.[4][9][11]

An estimated 3000 people in all 50 U.S. states and 45 other countries made transactions, many under age 21.[8]

Operation Adam Bomb[edit]

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.[1][9]

In March 2009, a DEA agent who gained access to the site successfully purchased 25 hits of LSD, sending money to Budapest and receiving the drugs in Los Angeles. He repeated the process with a larger order of 500 hits in September 2009.[12][13][8] A 2012 indictment contained evidence in the form of hundreds of incriminating emails from 2006-2010.[7] 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.[7]

An email in the indictment described Hushmail, which the site used extensively, as "an encrypted and safe method of communication [which] would not produce e-mails to law enforcement officers."[7] Though Hushmail's complicity with police was not made explicit in the indictment, Wired, Forbes, and the Tor blog suggested it would be likely given previous privacy concerns about the site.[2][6][14][15][16][17]

The investigation culminated in the April 2012 arrest of fifteen people in the United States, Netherlands, and Colombia.[8] Eight of the individuals were identified as connected to the site and seven individuals were left unnamed, likely site users.[9]. The law enforcement agency's 66-page, 12-count indictment named lead defendant Marc Peter Willems of the Netherlands and Michael Evron, an American citizen staying in Buenos Aires, as the two who functioned as "organizer, supervisor, and manager" of the site.[2][12][18] Willems was extradited from the Netherlands after a two-year legal challenge to his extradition.[8]

Legal proceedings[edit]

Willems and Evron were charged with "participating in a continuing criminal enterprise," five of the eight arrested were charged with distributing LSD in particular, and all eight with money laundering and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.[1][7][18][19]

In September 2014, the 45-year-old Willems pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering. He confessed, in a Los Angeles Federal court, to making a profit from the trade of illegal drugs.[8]

By the end of 2014, seven of the eight people indicted had entered guilty pleas. The eighth died before the trial began.[20] In September 2014, Willems pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering charges, and was given a 10-year prison sentence that December.[21][8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Schwartz, Mathew J. (17 April 2012). "Feds Bust 'Farmer's Market' for Online Drugs". Dark Reading. Information Week. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e Zetter, Kim (16 April 2014). "8 Suspects Arrested in Online Drug Market Sting". Wired. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  3. ^ Jablon, Robert (16 April 2012). "'Farmer's Market' International Online Drug Ring Busted, 15 Arrested". Huffington Post. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Farnham, Alan (2012-04-19). "Internet 'Cloaking Device': Why Crooks and Cops Both Love TOR". Good Morning America. American Broadcasting Company News. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  5. ^ a b Goodin, Dan (16 April 2012). "Feds shutter online narcotics store that used TOR to hide its tracks". Ars Technica. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Trip report, October FBI conference". The Tor Project, Inc. 16 December 2012. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d e "United States District Court for the Central District of California September 2011 Grand Jury (indictment)" (PDF). Wired. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Kim, Victoria (3 September 2014). "Dutch national pleads guilty to running online marketplace for drugs". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d Couts, Andrew (17 April 2012). "Feds bust "Farmer's Market," an online illegal drug ring hidden by Tor". Digital Trends. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  10. ^ "US busts online drugs ring Farmer's Market". BBC. 17 April 2012. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  11. ^ Whitcomb, Dan (16 April 2012). "U.S. busts global online drug market, arrests eight". Chicago Tribune. Reuters. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  12. ^ a b "Creators and Operators of On-Line Narcotics Marketplace On The TOR Network Arrested On First Of Its Kind Federal Indictment Charging Drug Trafficking In 34 Countries And 50 States". United States Attorney's Office. 16 April 2012. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  13. ^ Bowker, Art (14 November 2013). "Law Enforcement is on a Tor Offensive". SciTechConnect. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  14. ^ Singel, Ryan (19 November 2007). "Hushmail to Warn users of Law Enforcement Backdoor". Wired. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  15. ^ Singel, Ryan (11 July 2007). "Encrypted E-Mail Company Hushmail Spills to Feds". Wired. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  16. ^ Greenberg, Andy (6 August 2012). "Black Market Drug Site 'Silk Road' Booming: $22 Million In Annual Sales". Forbes. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  17. ^ Franklin, Oliver (7 February 2013). "Unravelling the dark web". GQ. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  18. ^ a b Vaas, Lisa (23 April 2012). "Tor-hidden online narcotics store, 'The Farmer's Market', brought down in multinational sting". Naked Security. Sophos. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  19. ^ Kim, Victoria (16 April 2012). "Feds bust online drug market in international sting". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  20. ^ "Creator Of On-line Drug Bazaar Pleads Guilty To Federal Drug, Money Laundering Charges For Distributing Narcotics Around The World". United States Attorney's Office. 3 September 2014. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  21. ^ "Founder Of Online Drugs Marketplace Gets 10-Year Sentence In L.A." Santa Monica Mirror. 11 December 2014. Archived from the original on 18 October 2016.