How A Huge Dark Web Mail Order Drug Ring Operated
With pods of dolphins swimming by, a beach-side cottage on the sand in the quiet NSW village of Callala Bay is hardly the place you’d think police would make one of their “most significant” cybercrime arrests.
Hacker Cody Ward, 25, allegedly used the rented home as a base for a “technologically sophisticated” online drug ring, in which illegal and prescription drugs were ordered over the dark web and then delivered across Australia in the mail.
Police suspect the operation had been running for years and had sold more than $17 million in cocaine, LSD, MDMA, methylamphetamine, and Xanax.
His arrest on Thursday followed a 9-month investigation, which NSW Police Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith says was his officer's “largest penetration of the dark web in Australia.”
It’s alleged Ward packed free samples of other drugs into the orders, and also included a custom-printed calling card in the packages, featuring the words “thank you so much” and an image of a moustache.
During raids across the area, officers seized 2.5kg of white powder, MDMA, over 100,000 tabs of LSD and “a significant amount of Xanax made to look up like candy.”
When officers visited the Nowra Post Office this week, they found 85 packages all ready to be sent out.
Asst. Comm. Smith says Ward and two sisters, who it’s alleged helped with packaging and postage, “ventured back into the real world” when they were put in handcuffs on Thursday.
Ward’s neighbour John Elton says he got the “shock of his life” when heavily armed officers turned up.
“The SWAT team came... and smashed into the house shouting and looking for him,” he told 10 News First.
“He used to really keep inside most of the time.”
“He’d be on his computer to all hours of the night.”
Elton says Ward often spoke of going on cruises. He also had a Maserati and a Mercedes, and social media posts show a thick gold chain around his neck.
But police say Ward’s wealth was mostly in crypto-currency such as Bitcoin, which they are now in the process of trying to seize as proceeds of crime.
But it’s not a simple process. The currencies are protected by code keys, and police allege Ward went to great lengths to cover his tracks online.
“He uses very complex systems often used by government agencies”, Smith alleges.
“He uses techniques that prohibit normal policing activities.”
“We needed to move up a whole new gear.“
But he says the arrest is proof the dark web is no longer a place where anonymity is guaranteed.
“We have that capability now, and they need to fear that the door knock could come.“
Ward did not apply for bail in Nowra Court today. He was supported by his girlfriend, mother, sister and father Noel, who is the local real estate agent in Callala Bay.
The two sisters accused of helping him, Patricia and Shanese Koullias, also remain behind bars, with their lawyer foreshadowing a bail application next week.
Featured Image: Daniel Sutton.