Two dark web drug dealers from the UK who sold synthetic opioid fentanyl on hidden marketplaces have been jailed for a total of 16 years.
University friends Ross Brennan and Aarron Gledhill are said to have made hundreds of thousands of pounds after mixing the powerful heroin substitute with other drugs and then selling the resultant product on the dark web.
Brennan, who York Crown Court heard had been the “masterminded” of the scheme, was handed a sentence of 13 years and eight months after pleading guilty to drug and money laundering offences.
Gledhill, whom Brennan is said to have “exploited”, was jailed for three years and nine months after admitting similar offences.
Police first discovered the Huddersfield men’s activities after neighbours raised concerns about the wellbeing of Brennan, who suffers from autism.
During searches of Brennan’s flat in York and a property in Huddersfield, police uncovered a synthetic drugs production laboratory and computer equipment which would later provide a treasure trove of evidence detailing the men’s sophisticated dark web drug dealing operation.
Over two years of running an account on the now defunct AlphaBay hidden marketplace, Brennan and Gledhill were said to have enjoyed an income of up to £1,000 (€1,138) a day from their illicit trades.
Speaking after sentencing, DI Nichola Holden, who led the investigation into the pair for North Yorkshire Police, commented: “In what we believe to be the first case of its kind in the UK, Brennan and Gledhill made life-changing sums of money through a sophisticated drugs supermarket on the dark web. But every single one of the thousands of transactions could have put lives at risk.
“At one point Brennan recognised that his actions may have led to fatalities. Rather than act on this, he continued the conspiracy to fund his extravagant lifestyle.
“There’s been a lot of recent media coverage about the devastating effects of fentanyl. It’s an extremely dangerous drug. It’s up to 100 times stronger than heroin and even a tiny dose can stop someone’s heart almost instantly.
“I’m confident that Brennan in particular had no doubt about the potential consequences. He was just too greedy, devious and calculating to stop.”
Law enforcement agencies in the UK and across the EU have voiced concern over the growing popularity of fentanyl, which has caused thousands of overdose deaths in the US.
The synthetic opioid is said to be many times more potent than heroin, making it a greater threat to drug users if dealers get doses wrong.
Speaking at the beginning of August, Deputy Director at the UK’s National Crime Agency warned drug users to vigilant after a number of overdose deaths were linked to batches of heroin that were most likely contaminated with the drug.