It is hard for a day to pass by without an arrest being made in connection to criminal activity on the dark web these days.
Michael Paul Smith, a 44-year-old man from Grass Valley, California, has just pleaded guilty to manufacturing and dealing AR-15 firearms on the dark web.
He was first arrested back in February after months of investigations by federal agents.
His case is the latest in the increasing amount of illegal darknet trade busts happening this year across the United States.
Overwhelming Incriminating Evidence
Federal agents raided Smith’s home in February after a months-long investigation linked him with the illegal sale of guns on the dark web.
A federal affidavit presented in court reveals that the feds started investigations into the case in October 5, 2017.
Apparently, Smith contacted a federal undercover agent on the dark web. He wanted to buy grenades and other explosives.
He would go on to negotiate the sale of AR-15 rifles and make sales to the agent on two occasions.
The incriminating evidence against him is overwhelming. The affidavit indicated that a transaction worth $4,400 was completed in Bitcoin on December 1 between the agent and Smith.
Another transaction would happen on January 4. The federal agent was in negotiation for a third transaction when the arrest was initiated.
During the arrest, a search of Smith’s house yielded more rifles, as well as a supply of LSD and methamphetamine. His wife, Julie Mae Smith, was charged with drug possession and arrested.
Prosecutors Are Seeking a Maximum Sentence
Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Lee said that Smith was also manufacturing firearms at his home.
He would buy the materials he required on the dark web.
Lee revealed that between October 2017 and February 2018, Smith had sold eight rifles to one of their undercover agents.
He preferred to receive payment in Bitcoin. Lee added that Smith had five more rifles ready for sale at the time of his arrest.
Smith will be sentenced on September 7 in Sacramento’s District Court. The prosecutors are asking for a maximum sentence of five years as well as a fine of $250,000.
Smith’s wife was also caught in the dragnet and is expected to be presented in court to take a plea. She is to be charged with the possession of controlled substances while armed.
It appears she was well aware of the dealings of her husband, and possibly helped in one way or another.
Weapons of War
According to the investigators, Smith chose to deal the AR-15 rifles as they are extremely difficult to trace.
The AR-15 rifles are considered “Weapons of War” in the U.S., and American citizens are not allowed to buy and own them without a permit.
More Weapons on the Dark Web
The dark web has made it easy for many to acquire modern high-performance firearms illegally. Firearms are at times cheaper on the dark web than on the street market.
Law enforcement agencies in the U.S. are working hard to curb the vice.
It has emerged that the U.S. is the largest source of firearms that are listed for sale on the dark web.
About 60 percent of the firearm listings on the dark web have their source in the U.S.
Firearms also make up the largest share of listings in the darknet weapons market, taking over 42 percent of the listings.
They got sentences between one year and nine months and two years and nine months in prison. Each was also handed two more years of supervised release.
Smith becomes yet another statistic in the ever-rising levels of crime in the dark web. There is more gun trafficking on the dark web than the law enforcement agencies and researchers can quantify.
Considering the terrorist threat that’s present almost everywhere in the world today, such a situation is worrying.
Recently, there has been a string of school shootings in the U.S. This has made many people quite worried about their children’s welfare.
The thought of the guns being easily accessible on the dark web can only add more worry.