Another darknet market user has been convicted for trying to purchase weapons on the now-seized darknet marketplace Alphabay. The UK’s National Crime Agency announced, on December 15, that a Crown Court had found 46-year-old Paul Stellato guilty of attempting to possess ammunition with intent to danger life.
The crime occurred on November 23, 2016. Under the name “cocaineking247,” Stellato reached out to an Alphabay vendor and asked if the vendor shipped grenades to the United Kingdom. The vendor—described in the NCA’s press release as a real vendor and not an undercover law enforcement officer—apparently replied with the answer hoped for by the so-called “cocaineking.” Stellato paid the vendor £277 in Bitcoin for three grenades.
He asked the vendor to ship the grenades to his Brackley home with a fake name on the label. “Richard Stewart.” He told the vendor that, “no matter what, these [grenades] are not for terrorism affairs, domestic protection only.” He sent a picture of an explosive of some sort to a colleague and asked the colleague, “if I add shrapnel will it do a hole in a house?” The question remains unanswered. We may never know if the explosive would have put a hole in someone’s house.
A package—almost certainly filled with inert replicas—arrived at Stellato’s house on December 14, 2016. He signed for the package. UK police arrested the man not long after the delivery. Stellato told the police that, if you need the parcel it’s left outside of my front door.” Police said that his cell phone contained incriminating search history. The 46-year-old had searched for “darknet site police selling info.” And again for “AlphaBay market forums.” The UK police who recovered the man’s phone said that he had also searched for information on anonymous browsers.
NCA branch commander David Norris reported that Stellato was a “career criminal” with a “very long record and a history of violence.” According to the NCA, Stellato has 36 convictions for 171 offenses—almost four offenses for every year of his life. And 10 of those years happened behind bars for an arson with intent to endanger life charge in 1998. “It is a frightening prospect to think what he could have done with three grenades, Norris said.
Norris pointed out that the NCA had worked with the FBI in capturing Stellato: “We worked tirelessly with our partners – including the FBI and Northamptonshire Police who helped us arrest Stellato – to keep these weapons away from him.” Hardly a month prior to the Stellato conviction, Birmingham Crown Court found 19-year-old Gurtej Randhawa guilty of trying to buy explosive devices on the darknet. The National Crime Agency Armed Operations Unit arrested the teenager in May 2017 for receiving a package that contained replica explosives. The NCA had reportedly removed the real grenades after intercepting the package a few days beforehand. Randhawa will be sentenced on January 12, 2018.
And Stellato will be sentenced on February 16, 2018.