On March 31, 2017, a 23-year-old computer science student stood in front of a judge at a courthouse in Toulouse, France. He faced charges linked to the distribution—as well as possession and consumption—of numerous drugs on a darknet marketplace. The actual charges stemmed from a mishandled ecstasy purchase, but when police raided the man’s home, they found “a real supermarket” of drugs.
The computer science student, or engineering student as his lawyer called him, consumed drugs only “festively.” As a “festive consumer,” the young man opted for the darknet instead of buying drugs from a dealer in person. His lawyer, in court, explained that darknet transactions were incredibly easy, especially for someone already well-versed in computers and networking.
Additionally, the darknet offered everything one could imagine. Vendors sold “cocaine, amphetamine, ecstasy, LSD, ketamine,” and marijuana—it lacked nothing, he explained. He provided another example of darknet superiority over street purchases: he never needed face-to-face meetings with a vendor from the dark web. He feared some of the online dealers more than the ones on person, he explained in front of the court. However no matter the fear the defendant felt – he never met the dealers.
The 23-year-old’s defense explained that he started as a “festive consumer” and bought ecstasy for personal use. However, the low cost of various substances—in bulk, combined with the ease of obtaining them—pushed him over the edge. He went from purchasing small amounts of ecstasy for personal to large amounts of ecstasy for distribution. “Initially, it was to ensure my personal consumption,” he said. “Quickly I was overwhelmed with the lure of profit.”
If La Poste, a postal courier in Metropolitan France, did not offer a mail forwarding service, the defendant’s “business“ could have run much longer. However, thanks to a standard mail forwarding service, law enforcement caught the 23-year-old with ease. He ordered a shipment of ecstasy to his house. But used the name of a previous tenant instead of his own. La Poste, according to their mail forwarding standards, forwarded the mail to the original tenant of the house at that address.
The previous tenant, like so many recipients in similar cases, brought the package immediately to the police. According to the prosecution, she panicked when she found a package with “white and blue stamps in her mailbox.” She inadvertently caused the end of the student-turned-dealer’s drug days.
Prosecution pushed for a one year prison sentence. After working with the defense, they settled on one year in prison suspended after four months of successful parole. The court agreed that 23-year-old student “was not a delinquent” and only distracted himself from his studies because of how easy he could order from the darknet.