College Students Caught In Massive Dark Web Drug Scheme Sentenced

By Beth Leipholtz 03/23/18

One of the students claimed to have bought an apartment and paid off student loans with his profits from the drug sales.

Group of college-aged men pondering near a laptop

A group of five students from the University of Manchester have been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison after being caught selling more than $1 million worth of drugs. 

According to The Guardian, the students were selling the drugs—ecstasy, LSD, and ketamine—on the dark web, which is a part of the web that can only be accessed with special software. They used the money from the sales to fund their “luxury lifestyle.” 

The all-male group was made up of “undergraduates studying pharmacology, computer science, petrochemical engineering, geology and marketing.” 

Before being caught by the FBI, the men spent time in the Bahamas, Jamaica and Amsterdam, lavish vacations funded by their operation. One of the men claims to have bought an apartment and paid off student loans with the money. 

According to court reports, the students started out by selling the drugs to their peers. They then grew their operation and began selling on the popular dark web marketplace Silk Road across Europe, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. They used bitcoin, a form of cryptocurrency.

While their sales were estimated at more than $1 million, the true amount was likely more—due to a rise in the value of bitcoin, and because prosecutors have not been able to trace the bitcoin information of the group’s leader, Basil Assaf, 26. 

Between May 2011 and October 2013, the men sold $750,000 worth of ecstasy. They also sold a psychedelic drug called 2CB and ketamine. In total, they had more than 6,300 transactions. 

On Wednesday, March 21, the men were sentenced by Judge Michael Leeming. In sentencing the men involved, Leeming referred to the use of the dark web as well as the class A drugs

“As intelligent men, you will each appreciate the misery that is caused and contributed to by people like you,” he said. “My duty is threefold: firstly, to protect the public from people like you. Second, to punish you, and third, to deter those who may be similarly minded to act this way in the future... These offenses are so serious that only immediate custody and sentences of some length can be considered.”

Assaf was sentenced to 15 years and three months in prison. Computer science student James Roden, 25, and pharmacology student Jaikishen Patel, 26, both took part in the Silk Road account and helped to purchase and supply drugs. Roden will serve 12 years in prison, while Patel will serve 11 years and two months. 

Geology student Elliot Hyams, 26, was involved early on and will serve 11 years and three months. Finally, marketing student Joshua Morgan, 28, will serve seven years and two months for the role he played in packaging the drugs. 

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.