Drug lord Liam Reynolds was the ringleader of a group of students who imported an array of illegal drugs into the country
- •Ex Christ the King School (Southport) student Liam Reynolds ran massive drug dealing operation from his student house
- •Used hidden internet to import shipments from around world to sell on
- •In texts he compared himself to Walter White from TV series Breaking Bad
- •Jailed for masterminding empire, while friends who also played their part handed suspended sentences
A 21-year-old has been jailed after modelling himself on Breaking Bad’s Walter White to mastermind an extensive drug dealing empire – from his student digs.
Drug lord Liam Reynolds was the ringleader of a group of students who imported an array of illegal drugs into the country and made money selling them to their fellow students.
The friends, who were mainly international business students, made use of the now defunct Silk Road website, which was part of the internet’s so-called Dark Web that is hidden from public view.
An investigation followed and a parcel containing a large amount of cannabis (pictured) was seized and other evidence was discovered
Reynolds ran the operation from this student house in Leeds where other members of the group lived
Over a prolonged period they ordered consignments of MDMA, LSD and cannabis from international suppliers through the website and the drugs were sent to the UK by post.
Payments were made using Bitcoin – a digital form of currency that can be used without the buyer’s identity being revealed.
Police finally uncovered the organised drugs operation after receiving information that the group were involved in drugs.
Reynolds is thought to have modelled himself on the lead character from television’s Breaking Bad, which features Walter White – a teacher who moves into the drugs trade to pay for his medical bills
An investigation followed and a parcel containing a large amount of cannabis was seized and other evidence was discovered.
Incriminating text messages containing overt references to drugs transactions were discovered along with photographs of drugs and images of members of the group posing with drugs and cash.
Following a lengthy and complex investigation the ten members of the group were charged in May last year with a range of offences.
Those included conspiracy to import controlled drugs and conspiracy to supply controlled drugs.
Reynolds was the only member of the group to be sentenced to immediate custody.
Nine others were given suspended sentences and ordered to do unpaid work.
Judge James Spencer, QC, told the students: ‘You no doubt went to university with your ambitions very high, and your self assessment very high, and you think you know everything and you think you can do everything without any responsibility.
‘It may come as a shock to you that the law applies equally to you as everybody else.
‘If you engage in this trade of illicit drugs then you can get yourself into trouble that can be life-changing.’
The judge told Reynolds: ‘You are the one who was to benefit most and you are the one who has to carry the can and bear the greatest responsibility.’
The gang were students at what was then Leeds Metropolitan University, now known as Leeds Beckett University.
WHAT IS BITCOIN?
Bitcoin is a distributed peer-to-peer digital currency that functions without any central authority, such as the Bank of England.
The currency was launched in 2009 and is traded within a global network of computers.
Bitcoins can be bought with near anonymity, which supporters say lowers fraud risk and increases privacy.
But critics say that also makes Bitcoins a magnet for drug transactions, money-laundering and other illegal activities.
However, a huge jump in value of Bitcoins in 2013 allowed some to reap huge rewards.
For example a Bitcoin investor, Norwegian Kristoffer Koch, made more than half a million pounds in 2013 after he forgot he bought £17 ($26) of currency four years before.
THE DARK WEB: THE BELOW-THE-SURFACE ANONYMOUS NETWORK
Welcome to the ‘dark Web,’ an increasingly popular corner of the Internet where thousands of computer users from around the globe interact anonymously — and, in many cases, illegally.
One website previously found there was the Silk Road, which operated on the Tor network – developed by The Tor Project, Inc – which is linked globally through special browsers that encrypt Internet traffic.
It became an online marketplace for drug transactions.
eBay of drugs: Silk Road worked as a veritable eBay of drugs, selling everything from marijuana to cocaine and pharmaceutical drugs
The dark Web poses new and formidable challenges for law enforcement agencies around the world that have been dealing for decades with more conventional international drug trafficking.
The reach and anonymity of these 21st century Internet operations is difficult to penetrate. Silk Road – which has been shut down twice by the FBI – and copycats on the TOR network are not readily visible through popular Internet search sites.
The buyers and sellers don’t exchange cash, dealing instead in often untraceable digital currencies, usually Bitcoin. So there are no banking records for investigators to subpoena
Those who created and support the dark Web say it’s a way to protect online users’ privacy in the digital age, with network providers boasting that none of their websites appear in Google search.
But investigators around the globe say the network is also a place of flagrant and profligate illegal activity of all sorts — from prostitution to arms trafficking — and they vow to crack down.
‘Underground websites such as Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0 are like the Wild West of the Internet, where criminals can anonymously buy and sell all things illegal,’ said US Homeland Security Investigations Executive Associate Director, Peter Edge.
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