DARK web drug dealer Kurt Lailan has been jailed after selling thousands of ecstasy tablets online using the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
The 26-year-old was expressionless in the dock at Portsmouth Crown Court as he was jailed for 16 years.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard he had ‘no education’ but together with his father Ralph ran a ‘sophisticated’ operation on the secretive dark web importing the pills to his home in Fratton before selling them on to users.
During his trial the court was told how two brothers had died from a drug overdose after buying drugs from a dark web vendor page run by Lailan.
A jury heard Tori and Jacques Lakeman, 19 and 20, died in December 2014 after taking ecstasy they had bought from Stone Island, a vendor page run by Lailan and hosted on the Agora marketplace.
But Lailan’s lawyer said there was ‘no causal link’ between the drugs Lailan sold and the death of the brothers.
Purchases and sales were made using the cryptocurrency Bitcoin and they used devices and software to mask their online activity, the court heard.
But the operation unraveled when police from the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit intercepted a delivery of 8,000 tablets to his home in Cuthbert Road, Fratton, imported from Holland in jigsaw puzzle boxes.
But judge Roger Hetherington said this was ‘the tip of the iceberg’ after jurors heard Kurt and his father Ralph - who fled to South Africa after being arrested - had made transactions worth hundreds of thousands of pounds on the dark web.
The court heard how Lailan had been stopped at Gatwick Airport on June 6 this year attempting to board a flight to South Africa.
Sentencing, judge Hetherington said: ‘The investigation into the dark net marketing activity, which you were undertaking, shows that you must have dealt in pills worth several hundreds of thousands of pounds.
‘It was an activity to which you applied considerable sophistication using devices and programmes designed to mask what was going on and you sought to launder the proceeds through Ralph Lailan’s accounts.
‘You then removed your ill-gotten gains in cash and spent it on high-end living, designer clothes and jewellery and cars and the like.’
When arrested on May 10, 2016, Lailan threw a memory stick over a back garden fence and had tried to hide a laptop, the court heard.
But analysis found he and his father had been running the vendor pages Stone Island, Stone Island 1, Stone Island+ and Tony Soprano999 on various marketplaces on the dark web, including AlphaBay, Agora, Hansa and Nucleus.
Full details of the amounts involved were never discovered but the court heard deposits of £337,963 were made into one account between November 2014 and May 2016.
Lailan was found guilty after an 11-day trial of fraudulent evasion of prohibition between January 2013 and May 2016, and supplying the class A drug in the same period.
His mother Shereen Lailan, a city school maths teacher, gave evidence again today as he was sentenced saying he had been beaten and ‘manipulated’ by his father.
Anthony Bailey, mitigating, said: ‘This is a troubled individual who has been used and manipulated and coerced, we suggest, by his father to involved himself in this dealing of ecstasy drug class A drugs, and he’s obviously benefited to a limited extent.’
But this was rejected by the judge who said he was ‘at least an equal participant’.
Judge Hetherington, who commended police and the prosecution in the case, told Lailan: ‘You were thoroughly calculating as you have been throughout the whole trial process.’
He said Lailan’s defence of claiming to not know what his father was doing was ‘ludicrous’.
Mr Bailey also said there was ‘no causal link’ between the drugs bought on the dark web and the deaths of the Lakeman brothers.
He said a post mortem report found the amount ingested ‘exceeded’ the amount bought online.
Prosecutor Robert Bryan said: ‘The crown say the scale of the sale of ecstasy tablets in this case was serious, the most serious and on a significantly commercial scale.’
Detective Inspector Neil Cripps said SEROCU had ‘extensive capabilities’ to ‘trace illicit market sales in Bitcoin’.
He added: ‘The case and subsequent sentence sends out a clear marker to those seeking to profit through significant criminality.
‘No matter how clever or devious you think you might be by utilising encryption, the dark net market places and cryptocurrency the expertise of the SEROCU and tenacity of our officers will ensure that we come after you and bring you to justice.’