Devon based Silk Road drug vendor gets five years in prison

Peter Ward Image copyright NCA
Image caption Peter Ward was arrested in October 2013

A major vendor on the illegal Silk Road website and his business partner, were sentenced to five years in prison for drugs offences.

Peter Ward, 54 of Barnstaple in Devon and Richard Hiley, 30 of Tividale in the West Midlands were sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on Monday.

Ward was given five years and two months, Hiley five years.

The pair pleaded guilty to possession, supply and importation of Class A and Class B drugs.

Peter Ward was known online as PlutoPete. His business specialised in supplying military-grade foil packaging that claimed to hide illegal materials from detection.

He also provided new psychoactive substances, commonly known as legal highs.

Image copyright NCA
Image caption Richard Hiley was arrested in December 2013

He was arrested by National Crime Agency officers in Barnstaple in October 2013 following an international operation targeting prominent vendors on dark web marketplaces like Silk Road.

Officers searched Ward's rural home and found class A and B drugs and numerous computers.

Analysis uncovered his close working with an ex-customer, Richard Hiley, who was commissioned by Ward to convert bitcoins into cash.

In December 2013, NCA officers raided Hiley's address in the West Midlands after financial records seized from Ward identified large scale transactions between the pair.

Hiley also pleaded guilty to two counts of importing a prohibited weapon after he imported five stun guns. He said they were for personal protection.

NCA Branch Commander, Ian Glover, said: "Criminals and their customers like to think that dark web market places provide an anonymous haven.

"The reality is that law enforcement works together internationally to identify and pursue these people."

What was Silk Road?

Image copyright Other
Image caption Raids in early 2013 closed the Silk Road and led to the capture of its operator
  • The Silk Road was shut down in October 2013, following raids by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.
  • The Silk Road was hosted on the Tor network to help hide it from the authorities and to make it easier for people to use anonymously.
  • The forums on the Silk Road had helped visitors to the site find and buy drugs and other illegal services.
  • Over the two and a half years that the Silk Road was running, it had helped drug dealers sell hundreds of kilograms of their wares to more than 100,000 buyers.
  • Millions of dollars had been laundered via the site, which only accepted payment in bitcoins.

Source: US Department of Justice

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