A middle-aged Scottish man has been sentenced to five years in prison for using bitcoin to purchase illegal firearms on the dark web. According to local police, David Mitchell, a 48-year-old from Edinburgh paid for a 9mm handgun, magazine, 150 rounds worth of ammunition, and a suppressor from the United States using about $2,750 worth of bitcoin (roughly 0.74 BTC at press time).
Bloomberg reports that Mitchell purchased the illegal firearm on the dark web and attempted to ship it from the United States into Scotland, but the package was intercepted by the newly formed Organized Crime Partnership. A placebo was instead shipped in its place to Mitchell's office by officers who then surveilled and trailed him to his house where he lives alone.
Subsequently, police officers stormed the house with a search warrant and found the placebo hidden under a couch; he was then arrested and charged with illegal possession of firearms. He appeared in court on December 5, 2018, where he pleaded guilty to 3 counts of firearm possession. On January 14, he was sentenced to five years in prison.
'Only Wanted to See if it Could be Done'
In the court hearing, defense lawyer QC John Scott told the court that while Mitchell has a history of depression and other behavioral problems, he had absolutely no plans to use the firearm to hurt anybody. According to the defense, he only carried out the transaction to see if it could be done. The defense also submitted that Mitchell had no prior convictions and had been described as "very reliable and of great value" by his employer.
In response, however, Detective Chief Superintendent Gerry McLean, head of the organised crime and counter-terrorism unit of Scotland's police, said that Mitchell did not offer any reason for purchasing the firearm, and hence they could not determine if he had any ulterior motives. He also reiterated that the priority of the police is the security of the citizens, so stopping Mitchell meant averting a potential problem.
In his ruling, Judge Lord Pentland said:
You claim that you had no intention of causing harm to anyone but the fact remains that you went to considerable lengths to get hold of a potentially lethal weapon and ammunition. You must have appreciated that this was unlawful. For this conduct you must be punished.
Mitchell's conviction marks the latest in a series of similar cases involving the use of bitcoin and other cryptocurrency assets to carry out illicit activities on the dark web. The most famous example of such a conviction remains that of Ross Ulbricht, founder of the dark web marketplace Silk Road. Earlier in the month, CCN reported that Ulbricht penned a letter to bitcoin cash evangelist and early crypto adopter Roger Ver seeking his help in getting clemency from the double life sentence he is currently serving.
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