Fifteen people were arrested as the result of a two-year-long investigation code-named “Project Adam Bomb” and involved law enforcement in Scotland, Columbia, the Netherlands and the United States, the US Justice Department said in a statement.
“The drug trafficking organisation targeted in Operation Adam Bomb was distributing dangerous and addictive drugs to every corner of the world, and trying to hide their activities through the use of advanced anonymising online technology,” said Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) acting special agent in charge Briane Grey.
Eight men named in a criminal indictment were suspected of operating a farmers market online storefront that allowed suppliers to advertise narcotics and consummate deals with shoppers.
Six of the alleged conspirators lived in the United States, with a seventh being a US citizen living in Argentina.
Marc Willems, 42, was described as the lead defendant in the case and was taken into custody on Monday at his home in the Netherlands, officials said.
The eight men face drug trafficking and money laundering charges stemming from their creation and operation of a secret online narcotics marketplace that brokered sales of the substances in 24 countries, according to the Justice Department.
In addition to the eight men named in the indictment, authorities arrested seven others — two more in the Netherlands, and five in the United States — involved in the case.
Officials said the virtual marketplace provided order forms, online forums, customer service, delivery guarantees, even mainstream payment tools including PayPal and Western Union.
Market operators purportedly charged commissions based on values of orders.
Approximately $1.04 million worth of drug sales were processed at the online market between January 2007 and October of 2009, according to investigators.
The online drug market was said to have thousands of registered users, and investigators identified customers in every US state as well as in 34 other countries.
The drug menu at the market reportedly included mescaline, LDS, ecstasy, and high-end marijuana.
Farmers market, which was named “Adamflowers” when the operation launched, operated on a TOR network of encrypted Internet connections and relays crafted prevent websites and digital communications from being traced.
“Illegal narcotics trafficking now reaches every corner of our world, including our home computers,” said US attorney for the Central District of California Andre Birotte, whose office is handling prosecution of the case.