A federal grand jury has charged six individuals with selling liquid psychedelic mushrooms on the darknet. The co-conspirators sold liquid psychedelic mushrooms in nine milligram vials for approximately $20 each on the darknet through the moniker TRIPWITHSCIENCE (TWS).
The online pseudonym was run by the six defendants; James Barlow, Matthew Barlow, Ronald Brust, Jennifer Campbell, Monet L. Carriere, and Tony Du Phan. They sold liquid psychedelic mushrooms in nine milligram vials for approximately $20 per vial on several darknet marketplaces under the vendorname: TRIPWITHSCIENCE. The have had a continuous business between November 2013 and April 2021, on the darknet, all under the same username.
A buyer from TRIPWITHSCIENC (TWS) caught the attention of law enforcement while making several purchases with this vendor. After an initial raid was conducted at the house of the buyer who had purchased illicit substances from TRIPWITHSCIENCE the buyer agreed to cooperate with the investigators. The buyer ended up giving law enforcement information about the vendor.
TRIPWITHSCIENCE was mainly active the three markets; Televend, Monopoly Market and Cannahome. The vendor had been active on previous markets such as Empire Market, Dark Market and even Dream Market all under the same username. This is how law enforcement gathered that the vendor had been active for over seven years on the darknet.
Gulf Breeze, Florida
Gulf Breeze, Florida, October 2020. Homeland Security Investigations Columbus (HSI), with assistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the United States Postal Inspection have identified an individual who is supposedly connected to several shipment believed to be products from TWS. Law enforcement executed a federal search warrant on his residence. HSI seized approximately $155,000 in cryptocurrency and cash, three firearms, and approximately 22,356 grams of 4-Acetoxy-N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (4-AcO-DMT).
The individual from Gulf Breeze, Florida stated in a custodial interview with several investigators that he was in fact not TWS himself but was only recruit by the vendor to become a reseller of its products on the darknet. The vials that were intended to be shipped to various global locations were disguised with labels of fake companies, such as “Genesis Nutronics, The Natural Detox. The Gulf Breeze individual claimed he would receive anywhere between $4000 and $6000 in cryptocurrency every 14 days from TWS for his reshipping activities. He stated that TWS had 1-3 “Order Men” working for him in Utah who were also recruited by the vendor to ship packages of mushrooms. Based on further information from this individual law enforcement was able to directly identify all other suspects related to TWS.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) database query revealed that someone named Tony RN used a UPS Store Box in Memphis, Tennessee to receive similar 10ML vials as the Gulf Breeze. Law enforcement knew what to look for after the Gulf Breeze suspect told them that TWS had recommended he use a certain vendor on Alibaba.com to buy 10ML vials. The shipment were always in bulk and monthly but a phone was listed on the shipments giving law enforcement the chance to link these shipment to a person now known as Tony Phan.
Physical surveillance was conducted on the Phan residence where he was witnessed to have dropped packges off at the local Post Office. USPIS Inspectors obtained a search warrant to open at least one package. On October 29, 2020, USPIS Inspectors executed the search warrant on the package and discovered thirteen 10ML vials of brown liquid. CBP Forensics Laboratory in Savannah, Georgia tested the contents of the vials and concluded that the liquid was in fact a DEA Schedule I controlled substance: 5-hydroxyN,N-Dimethyltryptamine.
Law enforcement also subpoenad Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase to investigate Phans account which showed that he had received 99.87374353 Bitcoin into the account. Records showed Phan received a total of seven one-hop transactions from the Silk Road 2.0 and Agora darkweb marketplaces. Several smallwer recent payment between $3000 and $9000 coincided with the payment schedule of TWS known to law enforcement to the reshipper in Gulf Breeze, Florida.
October 22, 2020, HSI Columbus gained access to data from a seized darknet marketplace which showed 34 transactions in the form of withdrawals from the official TWS accunt. It was later discovered that these transactions were sent to a Coinbase account belonging to James Barlow. The investigation into the Coinbase account showed BARLOW had sold approximately 312.99 Bitcoin through the exchange valued at $717,461.
The information from coinbase showed that Barlow had the following address:
Of which investigators found out it shared the same private keys with address:
Investigators believe this address is linked to TRIPWITHSCIENCE.
While conducted crypto-currency analysis on the bitcoin wallet addresses listed in the Coinbase subpoena for BARLOW, investigators discovered five direct transactions, from November 20, 2013, to September 2, 2014, between Barlow and “TripWithScience’s” darknet withdraw wallets. Investigators commonly observe darknet vendors withdraw their drug proceeds directly into their accounts when they first begin selling on the darknet.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection database query of international parcel seizures showed that there were only three possibilities for seizures to be linked to Barlow. One of those seizures was 113 grams of 4-Acetoxy-N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (4-AcO-DMT) addressed to Jim Barlow. The other two were 105 grams of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) addressed to a James Barlow and 1,416 grams of Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate (GHB) addressed to an “Adam Businger” but still sent to James Barlow’s home address.
Law enforcement investigated Barlow’s Vega address and found he was listed as the manager of the company Nutra HQ at a P.O. BOX in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nutra HQ had received only three international shipments. Two shipments contained a grinding machine and 2500 10ML plastic bottles. The third shipment to Nutra HQ contained 2500 plastic bottles. This package was sent from the same supplier as the 10ML bottles to the reshipper in Gulf Breeze, Florida.
Capsule Connection LLC
The previously mentioned darknet marketplace seizure supplied law enforcement with more cryptocurrency addresses from TWS’s account. Further analysis showed that there was a second Coinbase account linked to these transactions. Investigation based on the subpoena served to Coinbase linked Monet Carriere to this account. The account showed Carriere had received 334.47112423 BTC. The Coinbase account belonging to Carriere had also sent money to several companies, including Capsule Connection, LLC, Freund Container, Spice Jungle, LLC, and 22 ($21,184) purchases from USPS.com.
A subpoena served to Capsule Connection, LLC revealed Carriere was associated with six more orders of bulk “Gelatin Capsules”. The size and shape of these capsules matched capsules sold by darknet vendor PerfectShrooms.
Spice Jungle LLC
On November 30, 2020 Spice Jungle LLC was issued a subpoena for the account history associated with Carriere, James Barlow, Nutra HQ, and any and all customers using any of the shipping addresses linked to the other co-conspirators of TWC. The subpoena served to Spice Jungle LLC revealed various orders with a total of $8,429,51, linked with Carriere, James Barlow, Matt Barlow, Jenni Campbell, and Nutra HQ.
The subpoena served to Coinbase also gave law enforcement information on an account created by Matthew Barlow on February 21, 2018. Campbell was clearly listed as being associated with the Coinbase account. This account received a total of 22 BTC over since it was created. Matthew Barlow actually used a photo to verify his Coinbase account in which he is standing in front of a stack of USPS Priority Mail shipping boxes, the same ones used to ship drugs from the Salt Lake City, Utah area to Phan and the reshipper in Gulf Breeze, Florida.
Illuminated Couture and Good-To-Glow
A search warrant issued to Google for [email protected] revealed images showing bags of mushrooms with the cartoon scientist icon used by TWS and the script “u/TripWithScience” written with it. Metadata of these images showed they were all taken on November 15, 2020, near the same address in Las Vegas, Nevada. A Google search of the address revealed that residence was currently occupied by Ronald Brust.
A subpoena issued to Coinbase for the account of Burst revealed he possessed a personal and a business account. During the life of the personal account, Brust received 5.4995289 BTC valued at $63,117. Further investigation showed that Brust received a total of 26.39784414 BTC valued at $37,810, partially from transactions sent from a Bitcoin mixer. Transactions have also been linked to Wallstreet Market and Hydra Market.
After investigating Bursts pc and drives law enforcement found spreadsheets showing average yearly income of $211,019 in 2014 and a yearly income of $2,814,606 in 2021. The spreadsheet showed James Barlow’s value as $4,378,974 in 2020.
Based on this information law enforcement concluded James Barlow was the owner of the TripWithScience and PerfectShrooms vendor accounts. Carriere was initially a reshipper for TWS but moved up to ordering drugs precursors which were needed for mixing the liquid and powdered products sold by TWS. Some of these products were then sold to Tony Phan and also to Daniel Barwell in the UK. The only different between Phan and Barwell is that Barwell shipped to international customers. Brust grew psilocybin mushrooms for Barlow (TWS).