Drugs on Craigslist; guns, porn on Silk Road

 

Vicodin and Oxycodone are controlled narcotics, are highly addictive and you are not supposed to use them without a prescription from your physician.

There's a 21st-century work-around, however, for people who cannot persuade their doctors to write them a prescription: Answer an online classified ad on Craigslist, that purveyor of online horrors from "meet a guy who would like to rob you," to formerly some of the most reprehensible online sex ads that, occasionally, led to sexual assault, and even murder.

For the most part, they got out of the sex business, shifting it over to some other purveyor of sleaze, but the gray market in drugs is thriving.

"I would call a number or text a number (from an ad), meet some guy in an alley and get drugs," Chris Bell, filmmaker, told reporters. It was that simple.

Bell decided to come clean and come forward, bringing the matter to the attention of state Senator Ted W. Lieu, D-Redondo Beach. Lieu has now called upon Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster to pull all of their classified ads offering prescription drugs and painkillers for sale or trade in their states.

"It's very clear that Craigslist is facilitating illegal drug transactions. They are connecting buyers and sellers of narcotics without prescriptions," Lieu said. "I would like for Craigslist to commit to taking down their illegal drug listings the same way they took down prostitution listings a few years ago."

Many of the drugs advertised on Craigslist are addictive, potent and lead to overdoses. There are reported cases of underaged children buying illegal drugs or selling pills taken from their parents' medicine cabinets, according to Lieu.

The ads do little to hide their intentions. One ad on the website promised 16 Vicodin pills for $30 and explicitly warned, "no law enforcement." Another offered "Oxys, Opana, Morphine, OxyContin, OxyCodone, Percocet, Darvocet" to Southern California buyers under the guise of a medical research "study."

Authorities are on the case. A multi-agency task force - the Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force or HALT - was formed in 1999 to tackle crimes affecting the public health.

The majority of substances found on Craigslist by the task force are either counterfeit - meaning they do not contain the correct ingredients - or they have been stolen, which could lead to them being mishandled or expired.

The problem is not finding the illegal sellers and buyers but having the resources to target them. HALT's mandate is to go after large black-market distributors and individuals involved in Medi-Cal and Medicare fraud.

"Craigslist is like small, petty dealers. We don't have a lot of resources to go after them," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Opferman said.

Federal authorities target their resources to go after the big fish in the cyber-underworld. FBI agents recently shut down the black market website "Silk Road," the largest such hive of scum and villainy, big-time drug dealing, racketeering, weapons trafficking and even murder-for-hire.

How big was Silk Road? It trafficked $1.2 billion in sales for illegal drugs, weapons and pornography. Its customer-friendly storefront displayed bricks of cocaine instead of books and DVDs. It had more than 1 million customers seeking contraband - including false passports, driver's licenses and employment opportunities for hit men, forgers and computer hackers.

Christopher Tarbell, FBI agent with the cyber-crime unit, called Silk Road "the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet today." It took the combined efforts of the FBI, DEA, IRS and Customs agents to locate and shut down six of Silk Road's hidden computer server networks around the world.

What is most disturbing about these cases is that anyone, with knowledge and ambition, can buy, sell or use these dangerous and illegal spoils with just a few clicks of a mouse. Advances in technology have made it easier to indulge in our darkest desires and basest natures. The black market, despite law enforcement's efforts, continues to flourish and grow.

Our children and grandchildren spend their leisure time online, chatting with friends and visiting websites. If parents are not paying attention to who their kids are talking to online and where they are spending their free time in cyberspace, bad things can happen.

It's easier than you think to wander into some bad neighborhoods on the Internet. Everyone needs to do their part to steer clear of these criminal dens. It's a good thing the FBI tracked down Silk Road, and we hope state law enforcement can police the Craigslist pill pushers.

 

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