Creator Of On-line Drug Bazaar Pleads Guilty To Federal Drug, Money Laundering Charges For Distributing Narcotics Around The World
LOS ANGELES – A Dutch national has pleaded guilty to federal drug trafficking and money laundering charges, admitting that he was one of the leaders of a conspiracy that developed and operated a secret, on-line narcotics marketplace known as the “The Farmer's Market” that sold controlled substances such as LSD, “ecstasy” and marijuana to thousands of customers around the world.
Marc Peter Willems, 45, of the Netherlands, pleaded guilty late yesterday to two federal charges – conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to launder money. When he is sentenced on December 10 by United States District Judge Dolly M. Gee, Willems faces a potential sentence of life in federal prison.
Willems was one of eight defendants charged in relation to The Farmer’s Market in April 2012 as the result of an investigation called Operation “Adam Bomb.” Willems is the sixth defendant to plead guilty, one defendant died after being indicted in the case, and the final defendant has agreed to plead guilty on Monday.
“Adam Bomb” was a two-year investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration that uncovered The Farmer’s Market, which was an international drug ring that attempted to operate in secret by using the TOR network, IP anonymizers and covert currency transactions. The encrypted TOR network allows websites and electronic mail communications to completely mask IP address information by spreading communications over a series of computers, or relays, located throughout the world. The Farmer’s Market accepted payments for illegal drug sales through Western Union, Pecunix, PayPal and I-Golder.
The eight defendants were initially charged in a 12-count indictment that described how The Farmer’s Market allowed independent narcotics dealers to anonymously advertise illegal drugs for sale. The Farmer’s Market (which had previously been known as “Adamflowers”) provided a marketplace, order forms, on-line forums, customer service, and payment methods for the different sources of supply. The operators screened all sources of supply and guaranteed delivery of the illegal drugs in exchange for a commission based upon the value of the order. Investigators identified customers in every one of the states of the United States and the District of Columbia and in approximately 45 other countries. One of the “customers” was an undercover DEA special agent based in Los Angeles.
In his plea agreement, Willems acknowledged that The Farmer’s Market processed approximately $2.5 million in orders for illegal drugs over the course of several years.
“The Illegal sale of narcotics cannot be cloaked through the use of the Internet, even when sophisticated technology is used to conceal the drug trafficking,” said Acting United States Attorney Stephanie Yonekura. “Working with our law enforcement partners domestically and around the world, we have the ability to uncover and prosecute this hidden, illegal activity.”
Anthony D. Williams, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Los Angeles Field Division, said: “Today’s guilty plea demonstrates DEA’s commitment to identify, apprehend, and bring to justice all drug traffickers, including those who attempt to cloak their illegal activities utilizing the perceived anonymity of the Internet. This conviction sends a clear message that law enforcement can and will use creative investigative techniques to uncover and dismantle online drug marketplaces such as the one operated by Mr. Willems.”
Another key player in The Farmer’s Market – Michael Evron, 44, a United States citizen who was living in Buenos Aires when he was arrested in 2012 – pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to launder money and is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Gee on November 19.
Four other defendants have previously pleaded guilty and are scheduled to be sentenced later this year.
The final defendant – Ryan Rawls, 33, of Alpharetta, Georgia – has agreed to plead to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and is scheduled to formally enter his guilty plea on Monday.
Release No. 14-113