29 April 2015
Two drug traffickers, who ran a drug ‘party pack’ import export business, have today been jailed for a total of 14 years. When investigators arrested the men in August 2013, they seized almost 40 orders, containing 15 different Class A and B drugs, awaiting dispatch to customers in the US, Russia, Sweden, Ireland Greece, Israel as well as within the UK.
Today during sentencing in Belfast Crown Court, Judge McFarland said: “This was a very detailed investigation on a major drug operation which had the potential to inflict major damage on the wider community.”
Ryan Michael Millligan and Ryan Thomas McManus, both from Northern Ireland, used the ‘Silk Road’ – a hidden part of the internet - to move illegal drugs including cocaine, MDMA, herbal cannabis and mephedrone into and out of the UK. Their associate Conor Devenney who was employed as a courier, was convicted, but died before sentencing.
The investigation, started by SOCA in partnership with the FBI and the PSNI, showed that Milligan and McManus, using aliases Sonicdrone and Blackwater86, would order the drugs through digital communication such as emails, website forums and instant messaging services, using suppliers in the Netherlands, China and North America. They paid with virtual currencies such as Bitcoin or money transfer services. They also accepted Bitcoin as payment from their customers.
The drugs would be shipped to Northern Ireland through legitimate courier services to either ‘virtual’ addresses or to the address of a trusted associate. They would later be delivered by Devenney to Milligan or McManus.
Analysis of computers seized after their arrest showed they also used the ‘Silk Road’ to advertise their services to the worldwide market. Evidence from the FBI’s original Silk Road take down in September 2013 showed they facilitated 300 bespoke orders in the 15 month period between May 2012 and July 2013. Transactions show the breadth of Milligan and McManus’ international client base:
- hey bud has my order been dispatched? 3d25c013de 10 Grams 99.8% pre ban quality Crystal mephedrone 1. ( i really need it before the new year!) also do you know if it is criminal offense if i bring to Indonesia/Bali with me? not sure if it is illegal substance or just banned substance ( or should I say its plant fertilizer haha )
- I want to order 50 green rolex Pils can you send this order FedEx Express to Russia?
- I'm very interessed in a larger quantity of mitsu. Do you have any experience sending stuff in Italy? Am I forced to sign the package personally if I get 200-500 mitsu?
- I am interested in buying maybe 30 to 60 grams of Weed to begin with , what is your experience in shipping to India ?
- regarding the ecstasy 500 pills mitsubishi, I'm from sweden do you think I will receive my package to Sweden? have you done this size of orders in europe before??
When officers searched their properties, they seized phones, computers, ipads, passports and banking details, printers, packaging and large quantities of controlled drugs including cannabis, ecstasy, 4-MEC, amphetamine and LSD substitute tablets with the face of ‘Sponge Bob Square Pants’ printed on them.
All three men pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court earlier this year.
NCA Operations Manager John Costley said: “Drugs destroy communities and anyone who thinks buying and selling them in the virtual world is safer than buying and selling them on the street is very mistaken. The National Crime Agency together with its partners, locally, nationally and internationally, will protect the UK public by pursuing those involved in serious organised crime and will put them before the courts.”
A financial investigation is ongoing.
Silk Road is a black market website used to buy and sell legal and illegal commodities, including drugs.